By Hannah Stafford, News Editor
As a very controversial presidential election quickly approaches in the U.S, it is easy for Americans to forget that equally as complex and imperative elections are happening in other countries. Russia’s parliamentary elections took place Sep. 18, and the United Russia party claimed an easy majority, filling 343 of 450 positions. The Communist party took 42 seats and the Liberal Democrat Party of Russia (LDPR) won 39 seats. The remaining votes went to the fourth party, A Just Russia.
Russia’s framework of government is very similar to America’s in that their legislative branch, The Federal Assembly, is comprised of two chambers. The State Duma, similar to the U.S. House of Representatives, has 450 members, elected for five-year terms by proportional representation. The Federation Council, similar to the U.S. Senate, is made up of two representatives from each of the 85 Russian subjects, totaling 170 representatives.
“It is easy for Americans to forget that equally as complex and imperative elections are happening in other countries.”
All 450 members of the Duma were up for reelection in this race, but only 225 were selected by the national party list, and the remaining half were selected from specific districts. This is a change that Putin has implemented since the last election.
While no major turnover was expected, or achieved, there were some significant changes in the race itself from this election to those of the past. For the first time in many years, opposition to the Kremlin was not only allowed in the race, but even received some free air-time on Kremlin-controlled radio, which is typically much more selective. Hundreds of Kremlin challengers ran in this 2016 election. CNN reports, however, that while they were allowed to run, many complained of harassment and threats.
“[The authorities] think they should create some kind of picture that elections are free and fair in accordance with international standards,” said Mikhail Kasyanov, leader of the PARNAS opposition party and former prime minister of Russia.
Kasyanov has been directly targeted on multiple occasions, ranging from footage of him being attacked with cream pies to alleged sex scandals to further footage of him in the cross-hairs of a sniper rifle. The most threatening footage, involving a sniper, was released by key Putin ally and head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, who claimed it to be a joke.
However, a close associate to Kasyanov in the opposition movement, Boris Nemtsov, was assassinated while walking home one evening in Feb. 2015. The following May, another Kremlin critic, Vladimir Kara-Murza, was hospitalized following a violent illness, which he believes was no accident.
He told CNN, “These days in my country, unfortunately, everyone should be scared about the behavior of the authorities or other people.”
As Russia’s election season comes to a close, the framework of the Duma is basically unchanged; however, the opposition parties, such as PARNAS, are still grateful for the progress they feel they made in their movement this year.
“It’s angering some people, but others are starting to wake up,” said Kasynov in reference to a televised debate he was invited to participate in, only to be mocked while on the air. “They wake up and say, it is possible—even in a situation where everything seems to be under total control of Putin—to appear on the first channel.”
He continued, “And they started thinking that something could be changed in the country.”