High turnout: taste for democracy or herding instinct?

The parliamentary election’s high turnout of more then 60 per cent was rather unexpected. Before the ballots experts had predicted much lower figures, claiming Russians are sceptical of the procedure and democracy in general.

Unlike Australia and Belgium, in Russia voting is a civil right and not a civil duty. Everyone chooses for themselves whether to express their political preference or not.

The older generation is usually more active in voting, but younger people are usually not so eager to spend their time on casting their vote. Some believe their opinion doesn’t matter, while others say they have more interesting things to do.

Another factor was the lack of intrigue in the ballot. Opinion polls prior to election said the governing United Russia party was certain to win.

Some people were also angry over the new rules, especially the abolishment of the ‘against all’ option.

On the other hand, Russians have seen one of the biggest campaigns ever to encourage people to turn out at the polls.

Many celebrities were calling on people to cast their ballots.

Was the campaign behind the surprisingly high turnout? Or are Russians getting a taste for democracy? Or was it that they were simply convinced it was ‘the right thing to do’ and cast their votes without taking it seriously?

Time will tell – next on the agenda is the presidential election on March 2.