Duma 2016 vote: ‘Liberal opposition failed to convince voters they care about people’s wellbeing’

Early results of the Russian State Duma election in single-member constituencies on information screens at the Russian Central Election Commission. © Kirill Kallinikov
Why Russia’s liberal opposition hasn’t made it to the State Duma and why the Communist Party has lost supporters compared to previous Duma elections? RT talked with Veronika Krasheninnikova, Director of the Institute of Foreign Policy Studies and Initiatives.

According to preliminary results, the ruling United Russia party has won Sunday’s parliamentary elections with about 54 percent of the vote.

RT: Critics say there is no real opposition in Russia. What’s your take on that?

Veronika Krasheninnikova: The majority of votes for United Russia involve the majority of responsibility for United Russia. Of course all Russians expect solid results from United Russia. Indeed there are many problems in the country, particularly in the economy, and United Russia will be very much expected to solve at least the majority of such problems. The track record that United Russia showed during the past years is rather good.

People had a chance to vote for 14 parties, and only four parties out of those got into parliament – [they] have more than five percent of votes. During previous elections all the opposition parties’ complaints were about irregularities at the polling stations. But now even these opposition parties are not talking about it and all of them are accepting the very convincing victory of United Russia.

RT: The West is also arguing that there is no liberal voice represented in the State Duma, as neither of those kinds of parties passed even three percent threshold. Are those comments justified?

VK: … Russians want not just talking, but solid results from the opposition... They had so many months to convince the electorate that they are the most efficient to solve those problems. But people are reluctant to vote for them. I agree that Russia needs liberal ideas, but it needs quality ideas and it needs from the opposition parties real concern about the wellbeing of Russians. Somehow they couldn’t assure their voters about that. Unfortunately.

RT: What can you tell us about today’s Communist Party? Why has it made some losses this year, unlike it was in 2011?

VK: One of the explanations of the decreasing number of votes is that small the parties, those ten parties, who didn’t get into the parliament, withdrew some of the voices that otherwise the Communist Party would have gathered. That decreased the percentage by five - seven per cent.

Number two, the Communist Party of Russia is definitely not the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. It is very different and is much milder. You’d say it is a social-democratic party today. It is unfortunate that the Communist Party leaders couldn’t convince the electorate that a lot of these solutions to the current economic crisis in the world don’t lay within the market system. It is obvious. That is why [there is an] increase of the left votes in the world – that is what we observe.

The Communist Party in Russia could have had many arguments. There is an economic crisis, but the rich get richer, and the spread between the richest and poorest is still growing. That is definitely unfair and we do need in Russia a strong left. So we hope that the Communist Party in the Duma will show solid results in the next five years.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.