In Russia, A New Parliament Is Expected To Act Much Like The Old One : Parallels Most of Russia's opposition has been greatly weakened or eliminated. As Russians elect a new parliament, it's expected to be a rubber-stamp body that follows the wishes of President Vladimir Putin.
NPR logo

In Russia, A New Parliament Is Expected To Act Much Like The Old One

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/494261732/494394912" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
In Russia, A New Parliament Is Expected To Act Much Like The Old One

In Russia, A New Parliament Is Expected To Act Much Like The Old One

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/494261732/494394912" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to start the program today with a couple of stories that reflect on challenges facing democracy both here and elsewhere. We'll start in Russia where voters will go to the polls on Sunday to elect members of the lower house of parliament, the Duma. The last parliamentary election triggered protests in which tens of thousands of Russians spoke out against allegations of widespread vote-rigging and fraud. Analysts are predicting that this vote will be less contentious, but that's not necessarily because voters are more satisfied. NPR's Corey Flintoff reports.

COREY FLINTOFF, BYLINE: On the surface, this election has a lot of the familiar ballyhoo of political campaigns anywhere - billboards with the candidates' earnest faces and encouraging slogans.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken).

FLINTOFF: TV and radio channels carry campaign ads like this one for a candidate from Russia's still active Communist Party.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken).

FLINTOFF: Officially 14 political parties are competing for 450 seats in the national parliament, but few people doubt that the ruling United Russia Party will take the overwhelming majority of those.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: (Foreign language spoken).

FLINTOFF: That's an ad for United Russia, which features President Vladimir Putin promising to listen to the people and the slogan we can do it, United Russia.

Political analyst Alexander Kynev says the reason the ruling party is in such a commanding position is that it has already eliminated most of its opposition.

ALEXANDER KYNEV: (Through interpreter) The main peculiarity of this election is that many candidates have simply been deprived of the right to run.

FLINTOFF: As an example, Kynev points out that the election laws ban people from running if they've been convicted of serious crimes. Some key opposition leaders have been convicted on what their supporters say are trumped up charges, so they're not allowed to run. Even when opposition candidates can run, Kynev says, the ruling party has changed election rules to make it easier to manipulate the vote. In the past, he says, election observers could show up at any polling place unannounced. Now the law says the observers have to notify the election authorities at least three days before the vote.

KYNEV: (Through interpreter) The authorities will know in advance where the observers will be and where they won't be. That makes it easy to choose where they can allow falsifications without any weaknesses.

FLINTOFF: With little real competition, some opposition leaders say these elections will be downright boring.

BORIS MAKARENKO: All Russian elections are boring in a sense that power does not change hands, so you know the winner.

FLINTOFF: That's Boris Makarenko, head of the Center for Political Technologies in Moscow. He says the elections still have an important function as a public ritual that legitimizes the government and gives voters the sense that their voices are being heard. Makarenko says the Kremlin will get what it wants on September 18.

MAKARENKO: It will get this results smoothly and neatly without scandals, without massive protest rallies, with much less manipulation at the polling stations, so the ritual will be observed and the result will be favorable for the regime.

FLINTOFF: Makarenko says the interesting part will come when the new parliament is in place, and it'll be seen whether the new crop of government-chosen politicians is able to have any influence on the Kremlin. Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Moscow.

Copyright © 2016 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.