One Duma for Two

V. Fedorov


"The contours of the new Duma in general have already been defined: it will definitely not be a one-party parliament, but it is quite possible that it could become two-party... Whatever the outcome, "Unified Russia" will receive the majority of vote close to the current, constitutional one that they now possess", - as the Director General of the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Centre (VCIOM) Valery Fedorov states.

The second month of the autumn as well as of our election campaign was also marked by president entering the party politics. Vladimir Putin has now officially headed the list of candidates of the State Duma for "Unified Russia", having, thus, significantly affected the pre-election arithmetics. The number of parties that will definitely break a seven-percent election barrier, has instantly reduced from four to two: these being "Unified Russia" and the communists. Their present parliament colleagues, LDPR and "Fair Russia" deputies, are now suspended in uncertainty considering whether they will get into the next Duma, or not. Is it worth financing their party's election campaign or it is better to write off the losses onto a force majeure and to pass on to the passive audience category?

Obviously, the other parties are not likely to have any bright perspectives, irrespective of whether the Central Electoral Committee had allowed them to participate in the elections by or they did not even manage to collect the necessary amount of "genuine" signatures, as the three unfortunate parties ("The Greens", Baburin's and Umalatova's parties).

However, some of the enthusiasts are still willing to risk both reputation, and money. It was not by chance that the parties of Semigin, Yavlinsky and Belykh have brought in the monetary deposits of 60 million roubles each. It should be kept in mind that the money will only be returned to those who will receive at least four percent of the public vote. Meanwhile, the Union of Right forces is the only one in this group that appears to have the chance.

The others may safely say goodbye to the money and to join the overwhelming majority of Russians who do not care for politics. These constitute nearly two thirds today, as was found out. What is the reason for it? The point is that our modern society, which has started with an abnormally high degree of interest in politics, was totally disappointed in it by the middle 1990ties: the lion's share of citizens had realized that it was not to help them with the problems they needed to solve. Upon the start of Vladimir Putin's presidency, the apathy retreated: the country started to revive. But politics never became more popular: people have come to a conclusion that it is not a necessary condition in order to improve their quality of life and even that of their family: one only needs to find a worthy ruler. 

These are also the typical views for Russia today, which arouses a very serious problem for the parties, as they need to find a way to involve people in the election issue, to explain to them, why it is important. They are not being a great success in this undertaking as yet, therefore, the general overview of the new Duma has already been defined. It will definitely not be a one-party parliament, but it is quite possible that it could become two-party. Sergey Mironov's and Vladimir Zhirinovsky's parties are so close to the seven-percent barrier that any even the least significant event might help them overcome it, or, on the contrary, prevent them from it. Whatever the outcome, "Unified Russia" will receive the majority of vote close to the current, constitutional one that they now possess.

The secret of "Unified Russia"'s popularity consists not only in the presidents' steady support of the party in power. It is a strong organization rich in resources, and our people are more inclined to estimate what the politicians are capable of doing rather than listen to the promises that they make. If one considers that all the governors, many ministers and other representatives of authority have gathered in "Unified Russia", it seems that one already has the answer to this question. The second reason is the fear of changes. "Unified Russia" represents a party of stability, Putin's party, whereas we today, according to the data obtained in the surveys, are rather inclined to fear the new and unknown, than ready to eagerly accept it with our whole heart. The third factor is a lack of favourable and outstanding offers on the political arena.

Moreover, the place that the notion of a party occupies in our real political system, quite contrary to the letter of the law, is far from being the first. Probably, the reason for it lies in the fact that the Russian political consciousness is still in many respects based on how it used to be at the times of the monarchy. We consider the president to be the tsar with the only difference of him being elected. The State Duma represents a platform for political disputes. Many people simply do not understand what the parties are for. It turns out, that we have a democratic political system, but our political consciousness is quite the opposite. As a result, Russians are not too interested in the parliamentary elections, as everybody is waiting for the presidential ones.

Yet it is too early to speak about the latter: there are numerous half-official candidates to become the successor, it is still unclear who of them Vladimir Putin is going to present to the voters. Probably, it is worth waiting for results of elections to the State Duma, they will serve as a prompt to the authorities, what (and whom!) the voters are expecting from them.

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