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Putin’s Party Victorious in ‘Managed’ Russian Election

December 05, 2007 02:52 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
International election watchdogs have decried the democratic shortcomings of the recent parliamentary election. Is Putin aiming to prolong his presidency beyond the current legal limits?

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On Dec. 2, governing party United Russia won 64 percent of the vote, securing 315 of 450 seats in the Duma, the Russian parliament.

The Kremlin campaign framed the election as a referendum on President Vladimir Putin, who enjoys approval ratings fit to inspire envy in many a Western leader. In September, The Guardian reported that more than two-thirds of Russians would like to see Putin’s tenure continue beyond its constitutional two-term limit, which is set to force him from office next spring.

In the light of the president’s popularity, many commentators have been left wondering why the Kremlin needed to compromise democratic procedures, as European observers assert it has.
 
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe identified four principal problems with United Russia’s campaign: the party’s monopolization of the largely state-run media; its merging with the state; a new election code that squeezed out smaller parties; and widespread reports that opposition members were harassed.

Among commentators, the most common explanation for these devices is that by winning a two-thirds parliamentary majority, Putin can force a constitutional change that would allow him to run for a third term.

Alternatively, as academic Anna Matveeva writes in The Guardian, he might retain his hold on Russia by shifting power from the president to the leader of the dominant party, a position he has at present and will retain beyond the March election.

Putin’s intentions may become clearer when United Russia convenes later this month, on Dec. 17, to choose the presidential candidate. Judging by recent results, that person is guaranteed success in next year’s polls.

Read the CBC's coverage.

Headline Link: Observers bewail the corruption of Russian democracy

Background: European watchdogs withdraw from election

Reactions: The U.S. presidential candidates and the OSCE

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe

The election-monitoring arm of the OSCE has been observing Russian elections since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

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Opinion & Analysis: What next for Putin?

Reference Material: The election, the constitution and Russian opinion

Key Player: President Vladimir Putin

Related Links: Press freedom in Russia

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