Six opinions on the Duma election results

Dmitri Orlov: “This can’t be described as a plebiscite in support of an outgoing president. Vladimir Putin is not an outgoing president – he’ll just be changing his status. He has been Russia’s national manager, and after March he will become its national leader.”

Gleb Pavlovsky, president of the Effective Policy Foundation:

The key moment in this election campaign was President Putin’s daring move: in effect, he took responsibility – or rather, he proposed sharing responsibility to voters with the ruling elites. Putin took this step in the hope that voters would appreciate his arguments and understand that at least some of their confidence in Putin should be extended to the whole political system without which Putin would be unable to pursue his chosen policy course. Voters have accepted this approach, and United Russia will get a majority in the State Duma. But then it will have to become Putin’s party for real, rather than in name only.

Now the party should turn into a powerful political instrument, capable of nominating candidates for key posts, including presidential candidates; capable of providing oversight for the government and the budget; capable of banishing corruption from state and government bodies.

Vyacheslav Nikonov, president of the Politika Foundation:

These election results show that for the first time in the history of contemporary Russia, we have a majority party. This is a qualitatively new stage of development for Russia’s political system. The emergence of such a party makes it possible to form an effective parliament, which will maintain continuity of the socio-political policy course proposed by the United Russia and embodied in the Putin Plan. Other parties, especially the liberal parties, made a serious strategic miscalculation by deciding to base their campaigns on harsh criticism of President Putin. I get the impression that the leaders of the Union of Right Forces, for example, don’t pay attention to opinion polls at all. Opinion polls show that SPS voters are second only to United Russia voters in rating President Putin’s performance as satisfactory.

Sergei Markov, director of the Political Studies Institute:

The election campaign and the president’s support gave United Russia great capabilities. It was able to knock Just Russia aside, for one thing – and it will be a miracle if Sergei Mironov’s party makes it into the parliament when all votes are counted. That’s probably the most important achievement. What’s more, the SPS made some serious mistakes in its election campaign. Its risk-taking strategists made the party adopt an approach that didn’t appeal to its voters. Most importantly, these elections were like a referendum on support for President Vladimir Putin. That’s what was really at stake: the question of whether Putin’s policies will be continued once Putin is no longer president. And the victory of United Russia – the party supported by the president – guarantess that Vladimir Putin’s policy course will be continued.

Dmitri Orlov, general director, Political and Economic Communications Agency:

This Duma campaign was unique in being like a referendum. Putin made the absolute majority of citizens state whether they do or don’t support his policy course. But this didn’t make the elections less democratic. Another very important point: these were “big style” elections. In other words, we may say that big style – the style of distinct ideological platforms – is returning to politics. The parties that demonstrated their ideological platforms clearly and distinctly – United Russia, the Communist Party, the LDPR – performed well. The parties with vague ideas, targeting various groups – the Union of Right Forces, Just Russia – weren’t particularly successful.

In effect, the majority of citizens expressed support for Vladimir Putin’s current policy course. And this can’t be described as a plebiscite in support of an outgoing president. Vladimir Putin is not an outgoing president – he’ll just be changing his status. He has been Russia’s “national manager,” and after March he will become its national leader.

Alexei Makarkin, deputy director, Political Techniques Center:

The fact that President Putin headed United Russia’s candidate list has had a very substantial impact on the composition of the next Duma. United Russia may well secure a constitutional majority. From the political standpoint, these elections included a large plebiscite element – because there was also the question of what will happen to Russia’s political system after the presidential election of 2008. In effect, this “referendum” was held for the founder of our present-day political system. Even though he is leaving office, our entire political system is based on confidence in Putin. The political system assumes that Vladimir Putin will continue to play an active role even after he steps down as president. By maintaining a presence in the political system – a legitimate presence, as these elections have shown – he will facilitate its stability.

Valery Khomyakov, general director, National Strategy Council:

I think we’re witnessing the re-legitimisation of Vladimir Putin. His legitimisation as president was secured long ago. On December 2, Vladimir Putin was engaged in legitimising the post-presidential stage of his political career.

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