United Russia Prepares for a Squeeze

unitedrussia090810.gifThere’s been lots of interesting news about the upcoming regional elections, and speculation that United Russia might fall a bit short of its customary landslide victory (for example, there is one report going around that the Kremlin has ordered regional governments to make sure the party bags at least 60% of the vote by any means necessary).  But there appears to be a limit to just how many votes that the government can fake.

Writing in the Moscow Times, Nikolai Petrov takes a look at a couple interesting scenarios:

If the October elections turn out like those held in March — that is, without blatant cases of falsification but generally unfair in terms of the abuse of Kremlin administrative resources — then United Russia’s standing will not only fail to improve, but will probably fall.

That means the Kremlin has two possible courses of action: either to intensify the use of its administrative resources to ensure the desired candidate wins, or to try to come to terms with a new political landscape that includes a larger presence of opposition parties in regional political bodies.

Both of those options are fraught with problems. There is a limit tohow far the authorities can go in announcing election results that donot reflect the actual will of the people. During the October 2009elections, that approach provoked a sharp reaction from the threenominally opposition parties in the Duma — A Just Russia, the CommunistParty and the Liberal Democratic Party — that felt they had been backedinto a corner. At the same time, though, rejecting the model of a singledominant party could lead to a split among the political elite withsome members gravitating toward alternatives to United Russia. In anycase, it makes for a messy, complicated and potentially dangerousplaying field, and the Kremlin, of course, prefers simple politicalframeworks that it can control.