Russia’s frontmen

Russia Profile has an interesting article on the party lists that are now in the process of being registered for Duma elections.

Some excerpts:

At the federal level, voters know parties mostly by the top three candidates on the party list who will be the first to enter the Duma if a party receives more than 7 percent of the vote nationwide.

With the notable exception of United Russia [the ruling party], almost all parties made their top three candidates public at their conventions.

Parties that are at risk of winning less than 7% of the nationwide votes are really struggling to stand out by personalizing their lists:

The smaller parties, striving to attract attention, put popular figures and TV personalities on their lists, even if the credentials of those people were somewhat controversial. The Civil Force, a party popularly seen as a “spoiler” group aimed at stealing the liberal vote from the Union of Right Forces, is headed by attorney Mikhail Barshchevsky, a popular figure on various intellectual TV shows, and Mariya Arbatova, a fiery feminist and TV personality known for her non-standard views on sex and marriage.

Some experts and prominent public figures expressed dissatisfaction at this tendency, saying that it turns serious politics into a contest for viewers’ sympathies.

“Parties do not know how to attract attention to themselves,” said Vyacheslav Nikonov, head of the Unity in the Name of Russia foundation, a think tank associated with United Russia. “So they try to attract television viewers by putting familiar faces into their lists who have no real political meaning whatsoever.

When party labels are so weak, and the threshold so high, indeed they do.

The article also notes that, in addition to a national list, there are regional lists, which had not previously been clear to me in any summaries of the new all-list electoral system.

In accordance with recent change in electoral law, for the first time, parties have to register regional lists, with the hope that voters will be able to choose from candidates they know from local news and events.

The election is 2 December. Previous entries on the election can be found by clicking on either of the orchard blocks in which this one was “planted in,” above.

0 thoughts on “Russia’s frontmen

  1. > Re: “… almost all parties made their top three candidates public at their conventions…”

    Hoag and Hallett noted in 1922 that German parties put much emphasis on the Spitzkandidatt, ie, the Number 1 candidate on each party list, as a way of “personalising” the (then) Reichstag PR system. (Which worked real well, didn’t it). I note that in the German and NZ MMP systems, only the first ten candidates (from a list of dozens of names) are identified on the ballot-paper.

    In Australian Senate elections – which involve PR-STV with candidates grouped in party columns, BUT (before 1984) with no official party labels or ballot designations shown on the ballot – parties before 1984 used to put much emphasis on having a well-known candidate heading their team, so their voters would start numbering in the correct column. (Of course, party-produced “how to vote” materials and leaflets did state party affiliations, at least for their own team – everyone else was just left as “Group B”, “Group C”, etc).

    Thus the Democratic Labor Party (DLP), an anti-communist breakaway from Labor, used the slogan “Put Mac Back” to support their Victorian Senator (and leader) Frank McManus. Likewise the Queensland Nationals benefited from running their own separate Senate ticket in 1980 (rather than a joint team with their Liberal coalition partners) headed by Florence “Flo” Bjelke-Petersen, wife of then Qld Premier Johannes “Joh” Bjelke-Petersen. I forget who the Liberals’ No 1 Qld Senate candidate was at that election, and I bet many conservative voters did at the time.

    This was encouraged, though, by the fact that with only five seats per State at most elections, even the largest parties would elect only two or at most three candidates from their group. After the DLP split from the ALP in 1957, and the Democrats split from the Liberals in 1977, and given that Liberals and Nationals ran joint tickets in many States, it was rare for a party to elect more than two candidates from its ticket.

    Which is relevant to an interesting aside in Ingrid Robeyns’ blog post on Belgium (, via that “Flemish Christian Democratic party [leader] Yves Leterme […] ran in the last federal elections, and received 800.000 votes behind its name, which is (even historically) a lot for a small country like Belgium (however, he was the head of the list, which means that many people who simply want to vote on the party in general will also have voted for him).” Before 1984, Australian voters could only vote for Senate candidates individually (as in Belgian PR-List elections). Since 1984, Australian voters have the dubious privilege of being able to mark one square “above the line” to vote a straight party ticket (as in Dutch PR-List elections).

    So Australian Senate elections up to 1983 would show the top candidate on each major party’s ticket polling thousands (or, in NSW/ Victoria, tens of thousands) of first-preference votes in their own right, as against double or at most triple figures for the second, third and lower teammates in their group.

    Since 1984, though, it has become obvious to the close observer that the five- or six-figure vote totals are all for the party list as a whole (which votes are deemed to go first to the top candidate, of course) and that the number of individual votes received by the Number 1 candidate in each major party team, in his/her own right, is also in the “mere” hundreds or at most thousands. In other words, they are not especially personally popular.

  2. Now here’s one name that would stand out on any party list:

    “Putin Says He Will Run for Parliament”

    By CJ Chivers

    New York Times (Monday 1 October 2007)

    ‘… Whether Mr. Putin can serve in Parliament and as president simultaneously is an open question. Russia’s constitution and electoral law allow parties to nominate candidates for the legislature who are not party members, but Russia’s constitution also requires a separation of powers as one of its fundamental principles.

    However, Maya Grishina, a member of the federal Central Election Commission, told the official RIA-Novosti news agency that “the head of the state is not banned to [sic] nominate his candidacy at any election, including the parliamentary election. Along with this he can still carry out his duties. The law doesn’t contain any restrictions on this.”…’

  3. The picture for Russia’s opposition parties gets worse. Today’s NYT reports a new round of ballot access restrictions. The requisite petition size to get on the ballot has been upped from 10,000 to 50,000. One of TDP’s authors has been following polls in Russia, and not even the runner-up Communists are polling the 7% needed to win seats.

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