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The Russian Establishment Takes a Hit

The Russian Establishment Takes a Hit

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Published by The Wilson Center
Emil Pain, Senior Academic Advisor, Kennan Moscow Project, and Professor, Higher School of Economics, National Research University, Russia, gives his analysis of the September 8 elections in Russia, paying particular attention to the unusual outcomes in Moscow, Petrozavodsk, Yekaterinburg, and Volgograd.
Emil Pain, Senior Academic Advisor, Kennan Moscow Project, and Professor, Higher School of Economics, National Research University, Russia, gives his analysis of the September 8 elections in Russia, paying particular attention to the unusual outcomes in Moscow, Petrozavodsk, Yekaterinburg, and Volgograd.

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Published by: The Wilson Center on Oct 01, 2013
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Kennan InstItute
The RussianEstablishment Takes a Hit
Unexpected Results from theSeptember 2013 Elections
By Emil Pain, Senior Academic Advisor, Kennan Moscow Project, andProessor, Higher School o Economics, National Research University, RussiaIn evaluating the results o the Septemberelections, we should take into greater ac-count the specicity o the political regimesin post-Soviet countries, which just
pretend 
to resemble modern constitutional states.These are regimes that Max Weber called“patrimonial,” and Gabriel Almond and SidneyVerba termed “pre-civil,” meaning a state inwhich the population is not involved or onlyvery passively involved in the ormation opolicy. The role o the authoritarian leader ismuch greater in such societies than in West-ern democracies where the law plays a moreimportant role. This is especially true or patri-monial societies, which Weber reerred to as“sultanic,” similar to the regimes in CentralAsia and Chechnya. One distinguishing ea-ture o patrimonial regimes is the huge roleplayed by rituals. Even elections have a ritual-istic signicance there rather than a rationalor pragmatic purpose. However, completelyritualistic elections and public policy is moretypical or the eastern patrimonial “sultanic”regimes. In such regimes, instead o politicalstruggles there are struggles among the clanleaders to be closest to the “Sultan” gure.For the oreseeable uture it is unimaginablethat an oppositional politician could come topower (at any level —local, regional or nation-al) in, or example, Kazakhstan on the solegrounds that the candidate won the election.All o Nazarbayev’s real competitors, candi-dates or the presidency o Kazakhstan, diedunexpectedly, except or those who emigrat-ed in time, like the “Sultan’s” ormer son-in-law Rakhat Aliyev or the ormer prime minis-ter Akezhan Kazhegeldin. Ater these lessons,no one has voiced any ambitions to be presi-dent; everyone is waiting or the “Sultan” tochoose a successor.In Russia, the situation is dierent now, andthe September 2013 elections demonstrat-ed this. In Yekaterinburg, Yevgeny Roizman,a well-known opposition politician and oneo the leaders o the billionaire Prokhorov’s
Grazhdanskaya platorma 
(Civic Platorm)Party, won unexpectedly and is now mayor.In Petrozavodsk, the capital o Karelia, thepreviously unknown Galina Shirshina, wonwith her own, independent campaign whichwas extremely critical o the administrationin Karelia. Another big surprise was the resulto the Moscow mayoral elections, whereprominent opposition politician Alexei Navalnycame in second with 27.3% o the vote and
 
ar ahead o the other candidates. The currentmayor o Moscow, Sergei Sobyanin, won withonly 51.4 % o the vote, which by Russian po-litical standards is an almost shameul result. The Russian model o sel-preservation othe political elite diers rom Kazakhstan’s.
InRussia, power is not used as much to mobi- lize the population around the ather fgure o the nation, as it is in Kazakhstan, but just the opposite – it is used to demobilize the majority o the population and encourage political passivity 
. In the ace o such passivity, untilrecently it was easy or Russian authoritiesto alsiy election results as well as the voterturnout. However, in recent years, this polit-ical model in Russia is increasingly in crisis.There were unprecedented mass protests inMoscow in 2011 and early 2012. By the endo 2012, the government seemed to havecompletely suppressed them. However, inreality, the protest spirit in major Russian cit-ies was not crushed. The protest changed inits orm, and ater several demonstrations ogeneral discontent with the political system,it transormed into riots against migrants. Iin Egypt or Tunisia politicians oten rally theirbase around religious issues, in Russia politi-cians use ethnicity to uniy their supporters. Regardless, the Russian political elite under-stands the precariousness o its situationand is trying to nd new means o sel-pres-ervation under the new conditions. Atera period o using the political stick and in-creased repression, the authorities decidedin 2013 to use the carrot or a change, andallowed relatively ree elections to take placein some regions. This explains the results inYekaterinburg, Petrozavodsk and Moscow. Itmight seem that in other regions o Russia,the traditional model o ritual elections waspreserved, and representatives o the rulingparty had implausibly large victories in Sep-tember 2013, but it is not as simple as that.Unexpectedly or many, or the rst time inseveral years these results led to protests inthe Russian provinces. Since Putin came topower, the provinces had been completelypassive, whereas now in the Yaroslavl region,ve opposition parties signed a memorandumdeclaring the election results o September 8
Kennan InstItute
 
rigged. In Volgograd, not only did all the par-ties represented in Duma, including the Com-munists, protest the election raud, but therewere also spontaneous riots in the streets.On September 10, demonstrators blockedthe central avenue o Volgograd, which untilrecently was one o the most conservativecities in Russia. In the south o Russia, or example in theRepublic o Kalmykia, there were not any pro-tests o note, and in the September elections“United Russia” maintained its dominatingrole in the local parliament (Narodniy Khural).“United Russia” received two thirds o themandate, but or the rst time, 9 seats, or30%, went to the opposition. They went notonly to Communist candidates, who werealready in the Khural, but also to memberso Prokhorov’s entirely new liberal party“Civic Platorm” and members o “Patriotso Russia,” which has much in common withRussian nationalist parties. Until recentlyKalmykia was considered completely politi-cally passive and subordinate to one person(Kirsan Illyumzhinov), just as Chechnya is toKadyrov and Kazakhstan to Nazarbayev. Butnow a multi-party parliament has emerged inthe republic — this is quite an event — and aclear sign o changes in Russia. But in the neighboring region o Astrakhan,there was less change. In September, theyheld elections or the City Duma o Astra-khan, which were carried out according to thetraditional model and provided a completevictory to the party in power. However, therewas one novelty — there was unprecedentedlow voter turnout. In some areas o the city,turnout was only 16-18% o those registered.We can say that people voted with their eetagainst all candidates rom all parties. Andthis, in my opinion, better refects the willo the people than the elections or the Par-liament o the Chechen Republic, or whichvoter turnout on September 8 was 92%, and“United Russia” garnered 85% o the vote.The Chechen Republic still sets the bar inRussia or “managed democracy. In the Stavropol and Krasnodar regions theSeptember elections were only held or cer-tain city and village councils. Their legislatureswere elected earlier this year. It’s importantto note that at the time (July 2013), a verypopular party in Stavropol oblast’, the Russiannationalist party “Novaya Sila” (New Force),was not allowed to partake in the elections.However, the party in power began to incor-porate its ideas. Just during the Septemberelections, the Pyatigorsk city government,which is the administrative center o theNorth Caucasus Federal District, demandedthe demolition o a mosque, which “Nova-ya Sila” had previously insisted upon. Thecurrent administration, in this city and else-where, wants to rely on Russian nationalismto strengthen its altering legitimacy. Otherpolitical orces in Russia are driting towardRussian nationalism as well.
Kennan InstItute

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