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The cost of Russian democracy: $US 172 MLN

Election is an expensive business, especially when it is held across 11 time zones. Sunday’s parliamentary election in Russia is expected to cost $US 172 million, around 30% less than the 2003 poll.

Representatives of the Central Election Commission have already collected votes from remote electoral districts, tracking down voters in sparsely populated areas.

Elena Dubrovina, a member of the Central Election Commission, says they’ve spent $US 4 million on pre-election work alone.

“That is rather costly as we need to use helicopters and heavy vehicles to get to some of our electorates,” she said.

Advertising also took a large chunk of the budget.

With a clear leader in this race, the government is hoping for the highest possible turnout – hopefully above 60 % of voters.

But political parties have most to gain from the election, and that’s reflected in their spending.

Evgeny Alyushin from the election commission said, “This year parties officially may spend more money – up to $US 72 million”.

Experts say about half is spent on campaigning.  

In the regions it can cost up to $US 50 to post 100 leaflets and the cost of organising a rally is $US 1000 dollars.

In Central Russia these prices are several times higher.

Other spending is divided between direct advertising on mass media and paid-for articles.

This may sound like a lot, but it’s much less than in the last Duma election in 2003.

“This year the election will be cheaper for parties – at about $US 20 per campaign team per vote. There is no intrigue in this election because there are obvious leaders and obvious outsiders,” Vladimir Chernousov, an expert from ‘Pravilo’ consulting agency said. 

The front runners are reluctant to spend a lot, according to political PR experts.

Igor Prokhaev, the head of Equity Sales at Troika Dialog, says the Russian equity markets are NOT likely to be shaken up by Sunday's election results. He points to another factor that is likely to provide a market boost in December.

“I do not expect the market to be surprised by the results of the State Duma elections. I would say that the market would be more interested in liquidity in Russia, which we expect should increase dramatically in December and, of course, the global market,” says Mr Prokhaev.