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Electoral Politics in Russia: Are Citizens Speaking Up?

Article / I write about the unlikely outcome of a mayoral election.

On February 25, 2010, two weeks before regional elections took place in the Russian Federation, Maria Eismont, Director of the Russian Independent Media Program at the New Eurasia Foundation in Moscow, came to the Harriman Institute for a screening and discussion of her new documentary, Managed Democracy Misfires: How Krasnoturinsk Elected Its Own Mayor. Krasnoturinsk is a small town in the Province of Sverdlovsk, located in the northeastern part of the Ural region—873 miles from Moscow, and 224 miles north of Yekaterinburg. The population is just barely 60,000, but the mayoral election that took place there last March attracted enough interest to warrant a documentary.

In order to understand why an election in this remote town triggered national attention, it is important to step back and examine the broader context of electoral politics in the Russian Federation. Russia is a managed democracy; competitive elections exist, but only in certain spheres, and with strict state regulation. There are four dominant parties: the United Russia Party, the Communist Party, the Liberal Democratic Party, and A Just Russia Party—but United Russia, which was established with the strong support of former President Vladimir Putin in 2001, continues to be the party of the state—in 2008, Prime Minister Putin became its chair. United Russia’s involvement with the state, as well as its political monopoly, has caused skepticism about the legitimacy of the electoral process in Russia.

Read the article on the Harriman Institute's website.


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