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Investigation07 июля 2022, 12:30
Alexander Kynev
Political Scientist, Expert of "Golos" Movement
Collage: Ksenia Telmanova

It would seem that the list of regions in 2022 as a whole is quite safe. But even there, the authorities are afraid of something. Apparently, there is growing discontent against the background of socio-economic problems: the lower the real ratings, the more noticeable the falsifications, even in regions where this is a tradition. It is one thing to fake 25% of the votes, it is another to falsify 50% or even 75% of the votes.

Fears are expressed in the reduction or even elimination of elections on party lists: voting on them is merely a matter of symbolic protest. In majoritarian elections, a simple majority is enough to win (a second round is not required), and usually the winners are respected people who, as a rule, by virtue of their position and status, are members of the ruling party. However, it is worth remembering that the transition to a fully majoritarian system also carries risks for the authorities themselves, because if the ratings drop too much, they can eventually outsmart themselves and be left without mandates at all.

It is worth recalling that in the September 2021 parliamentary elections in Vladivostok, Lipetsk, and Barnaul, the Communists won almost all city districts; in 2019, a similar thing happened in Khabarovsk and Khabarovsk Krai. (After this, the districts saw a sweeping victory by supporters of Sergei Furgal of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia.)

How party lists were fought over

The right of parties to influence regional parliamentary elections was abolished gradually after the problems of the party in power in 2011-2013. On November 2, 2013, Federal Law № 303-FZ (one of the authors of which is Andrei Klishas as the new anti-party laws on the system of public authority), reduced the minimum requirements for the use of proportional representation from 50% to 25%. For Moscow and St. Petersburg, the requirement of minimum party deputies was cancelled altogether. This change was immediately implemented in Moscow, and the 2014 and 2019 Moscow City Council elections were already under a fully majoritarian system.

This law also completely abolished the requirement, introduced under Dmitry Medvedev, for a minimum proportion of deputies to be elected under the proportional system for local governments. As a result, at the elections of city councils in the administrative centers of the regions on September 14, 2014, out of 20 regional centers, the mixed system remained only in six cities, while 14 cities completely abolished the proportional component. (In the 21st city, Chelyabinsk, direct election of city council deputies by the population was abolished altogether and replaced with delegation from inner-city district councils.)

However, in regional elections, apart from Moscow, the proportional component was not drastically reduced anywhere between 2014 and 2018. Only in two regions was the "Klishas-2013 law" used to make the number of deputies elected under the proportional system one less than the number of single-member districts.

In city council elections in regional capitals since 2015, party lists were usually left in place, only reducing the number of party deputies. In 2015-2018, the majoritarian system was not fully implemented in any of the regional centers. Thus, in these years, the 2013 law played more of a blackmail role: the parties were shown that, if they wished, the government could sharply reduce the proportion of deputies on party lists, thus hinting at the need to be more agreeable.

How the situation has changed since 2019

In 2019, the situation began to deteriorate again in direct proportion to the drop in United Russia's ratings. In regional parliamentary elections on September 8, 2019, four regions with potentially the highest levels of protest voting (Khabarovsk Krai, the republics of Altai and Mari El, and Tula Oblast) saw a similar change in the share of deputies elected from political parties, which decreased from a half to a third or a quarter. Of the 21 regional centers where city councils were elected on September 8, 2019, in 13 the elections were held under a fully majoritarian system, that is, the mixed system was abolished.

Of the 11 regional parliamentary elections held on September 13, 2020, only the Kostroma Oblast decided to apply the 2013 law and radically reduce the proportion of deputies on party lists.

Elections of city councils of regional centers in 2020 were held in the same 22 cities as in 2015, of which two more had councils of inner-city districts, which then had to elect city parliaments (Samara and Makhachkala). Of these 22 cities, eight regional centers (Astrakhan, Vladimir, Kostroma, Lipetsk, Magadan, Nizhny Novgorod, Novosibirsk, Ulyanovsk) switched to a fully majoritarian system, while 14 retained a mixed system.

In nine of these 14 cities, the majoritarian part now substantially prevails. Only in five of the 22 administrative centers (Syktyvkar, Kazan, Cheboksary, Orenburg, Tambov) the ratio of the list and majority parts remained equal or approximately equal.

Finally, at the elections of September 19, 2021, the proportion of deputies elected by party lists was substantially reduced in another six regions: in the elections to the legislative assemblies in protesting Primorskii Krai, Amur Oblast, Kirov Oblast, Lipetsk Oblast, Murmansk Oblast, and Novgorod Oblast. At the same time, in Amur, Kirov and Lipetsk oblasts, the total number of deputies was reduced.

In Astrakhan Oblast and Pskov Oblast, the formal ratio of proportional and majoritarian parts remained equal, but the number of deputies was sharply reduced (in Astrakhan Oblast from 58 to 44, in Pskov Oblast from 44 to 26). Of the 11 city councils of administrative centers of the regions elected on September 19, 2021, party lists were completely abolished in Saratov and Kaliningrad. Only two administrative centers of the North Caucasus regions (Nalchik and Grozny) retained a fully proportional system; the remaining seven cities adopted a mixed system, while in Perm and Stavropol, although party lists remained, the majoritarian part dominated.

In Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, the parties were left 10 seats out of 30; in Pskov 10 out of 25.

The new law "On General Principles of Organization of Public Power in the Constituent Entities of the Russian Federation" (Article 15) completely abolishes the norm, introduced as early as July 2003, which obliged regions to elect at least half of their deputies from party lists. This norm has considerably increased the influence of parties in the regions and enabled them to have their own factions in the regional legislatures, which was a rarity before 2003.

These norms of the law came into force on June 1, 2022, that is, they could not yet legally be used in the 2022 elections. Now regional authorities have the power not only to reduce the share of deputies in party lists, but also completely to "zero out" this share. Usually in this case the opposition are allocated a few symbolic districts for the sake of decorum, which allows for the election of candidates who will not interfere with the work of the majority, rather than the most dangerous oppositionists.

Мнение выражает личную позицию автора и может не совпадать с позицией движения «Голос».