Election results. The almost final results give a Duma with 238 seats for United Russia (down 77); 92 Communists (up 35); 64 Just Russia (up 26) and 56 Zhirinovskiy’s party (up 16). (Interactive map by regions). United Russia will dominate, but no longer be able to bully. Which is a step in the right direction.
Election fraud. There is a lot from the usual media outlets about widespread, even game-changing, fakery. I would suggest that those who believe this reflect on what might be termed the Prime Law of Election Fixing: Don’t fix it so that your party loses votes and seats. Especially when they have been saying that every previous Russian election was fraudulent. This should be obvious to anyone. Secondly the results accord well (as previous elections have) with opinion polling (indeed United Russia did a bit worse). This piece shows that the results are consistent with numerous polls (here’s a reasonably perceptive forecast from two months earlier and another, based on polls, from the day before). To persist in assertions of game-changing fraud in the face of these facts is just ridiculous. By the way, if you go by the English-speaking media you would think that foreign observers thought the elections were frightful: not so, here are a number of foreign observers saying that they were good enough. The OSCE report does not suggest big-scale fixing either; indeed it reads like other OSCE reports: administrative resources, lack of competition, some bad behaviour.
Logic. There is a simple point of logic here, I think. Opinion polls told us that United Russia was sinking and that even Putin’s ratings had declined. This is the factual basis for pieces like this one. So far so good. But to then to claim that the election was so fraudulent that – that what? the Communists actually won? United Russia gave itself 10-20-30 points? Enough to get a majority? – contradicts the very opinion polls that were the basis for the first observation. (Was there cheating? Of course there was, and not just by United Russia. There’s cheating in all elections everywhere. Enough to be a game-changer? I doubt it.)
Implications. Half the vote is hardly a repudiation of United Russia but such a reduction is hardly an endorsement either. For some months opinion polls have been showing a weariness with this assemblage of power-worshippers. It is a wake-up call. I would expect more “retirements” of officials: not because they failed to cook the results but because they have been repudiated by the electorate. I do not believe that it will affect the presidential vote greatly (opinion polls again: The Team’s ratings are still pretty high) but it might/might result in Putin having to go to a second round of voting. On the other hand, given that the number two candidate will probably be Zyuganov of the Communists, it might not. However tired Russians may be of Putin, they must be even more tired of Zyuganov who ran for President in 1996, 2000 and 2008. To say nothing of Yavlinskiy (1996 and 2000) and Zhirinovskiy (1991, 1996, 2000 and 2008). Of these, Putin is certainly the least stale. But I still think he should have retired. At any rate both Medvedev and Putin are taking it pretty calmly; but, given the polls, they must have seen it coming. And, once again, the “liberals”, so beloved of the West, failed. Here, as a change from “Putin stole it”, is a piece saying the Communists are back.
Chechnya. Chechnya, again, produced a 99%+ turnout with 99%+ voting for United Russia. I actually believe this result is correct (plus or minus). Kadyrov’s father once said Chechens had been fighting for independence for decades without success and it was time to try some other method than war. I believe Chechens still want independence but understand that it would come at a terrible cost and then be followed by invasion by jihadists. This is, after all, what happened after the first war in 1994. It is therefore necessary never to let Moscow suspect that independence is what you are after (sovereignty is an acceptable public aim) but to move gradually in that direction. In this respect it is useful to be able to cover your moves by showing outstanding “loyalty” to Moscow. Chechnya is the sort of society in which the word can be put out through the tayps and families that it is in everyone’s best interest to turn out and vote for Moscow’s party. And something similar can be seen elsewhere in the North Caucasus where United Russia always gets big numbers.
Demonstrations. We shall see what Saturday’s demonstrations bring.
Magnitskiy. The case was re-opened, we are told, so that his relatives can have his name cleared.