Electoral system. In the beginning, the Duma’s 450 seats were chosen half by party list and half by single mandate with a 5% threshold. Then Putin I changed it to all party list and 7% threshold. Putin II has just sent a bill to the Duma to change it back to the original. So what was the point of all that? The new law forbids electoral alliances – obviously another attempt to force like-minded people to unite. But we have 20 years of observational experience that Russian liberals refuse to sink their (small policy but large personality) differences. On a personal note, I was an observer in the 1995 election when 40-some parties ran. The party vote ballot was the size of a newspaper sheet and few voters had a clue. Are we going back to that?
Corruption. Investigations all over the place. Phoney academic degrees; embezzlement at RusHydro; two frauds in the Penitentiary Service; tax evasion at RUSAL; a former Duma Deputy. And not to forget OboronServis: Prosecutor General Chayka says 25 separate cases have been combined, the total cost of which is now said to be over US$400 million. The MoD is target-rich: a general is suspended, a former financial administrator jailed, a possible rotten rations scandal, and a supplier case. And the Olympics appear on the horizon: cost inflations. Sergey Ivanov has said that no one is immune. The Central Bank has weighed in with a statement that illegal money transfers amounted to US$49 billion in 2012 and that every tenth company making settlements through its payment system dodged tax payments in 2012. Obviously these cases have been in preparation for some time and investigators are digging. Definitely a serious campaign.