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Russian regional elections begin


Russian regional elections begin

Russian regional elections begin
Photo: Christina Hägerfors

Russia will today hold elections for governors and legislators in 23 of its 85 regions.

The votes have been framed referenda on President Vladimir Putin and his United Russia (UR) party. With growing protests in Russia’s far east, an oil crisis-induced economic fallout, a substandard COVID-19 response and the poisoning of Putin critic Alexei Navalny, United Russia’s grip on power appears to be facing its greatest challenge since 2011. Despite this, the recent monumental rise in voter fraud signal’s Moscow’s willingness to resort to ballot stuffing and intimidation to secure power.

Posing the greatest threat to Putin’s hold on power, Novosibirsk, Russia’s third-largest city, looks poised to undo UR’s control of the city legislature. Unified under the “Novosibirsk 2020” coalition led by Alexei Navalny’s supporters, the city has placed Moscow in a deadly double-bind: rig elections and face wide-scale protest or allow a symbolic win for Navalny.

Expect today’s elections to secure a win for UR candidates. Facing re-election in 2021 and a tumultuous political climate, Putin will refuse to show any weakness that could embolden Navalny supporters. Post-election protests in Novosibirsk can be expected, and they will likely be met with repressive force by authorities. In the long-term, expect protests across Russia to weaken Putin’s grip on power and create an even greater double-bind come 2021.

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