Elections in Russia, an exercise in imitation and self-celebration

Elections in Russia belong to a separate genre, hybrid. There is no question of alternation, coalitions, debates, but adjustments within the elite, and control: that which the governors demonstrate by bringing the necessary results; the one shown by Vladimir Putin by holding the whole system with a firm hand.

The electoral process is a matter of imitation. Fraud replaces competition, or reduce the risks. Those who refuse these rules are not entitled to the qualifier of opponents but to that, dangerous, traitors. They are rendered ineligible, driven into exile or imprisoned.

The legislative elections which took place from September 17 to 19, with a victory awarded to the United Russia presidential party and a slight communist breakthrough, have shown this. Apart from traditional ballot box stuffing and forced or multiple votes, the possibilities of falsification have been multiplied via electronic voting, the three-day vote and the restrictions placed on the work of observers.

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The inversion of the meaning of words is a constant of the Putinian diet. On September 17, the first day of the vote, the Foreign Ministry referred to the anniversary of the entry of Soviet forces into Poland, eighty-two years earlier. Rather than recalling the secret protocol of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, under which this invasion was triggered, or its aftermath, such as the Katyn massacre, the press release mentioned “The beginning of the liberation march of the Red Army on the territory of Poland”.

Soviet nostalgia

This is a coincidence, but it is not completely coincidental. The USSR also cherished the elections, even though they were single candidate. The aging generation now in charge of Russia does not hide its Soviet nostalgia. In his eyes, what elections should be like is to be looked for in that direction: a moment of national celebration, with orchestras and flonflons.

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This prospect is still distant, some safeguards remain. But at best, the polls turn into a referendum for or against the status quo. This is the scant indication given by the progress of the Communist Party, a party which has not decided whether it is ready to challenge its political monopoly in the Kremlin.

For the Russian authorities itself, this observation is not without risks. First there is no more thermometer. Each echelon is auto-intoxicating by wanting to satisfy the upper echelon – here too the analogy with the USSR is operative. Thousands of polling stations honestly count the votes, but their results are masked in the flood of forgeries. Even though these results are not dishonorable for those in power.

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