Friday, November 4, 2011

Shadow of predictability over Russian parliamentary elections

I spent this week in Moscow, cold grey Moscow, which is preparing for the Russian State Duma election on 4 December next.  But, at least the temperatures were not as punishing as they can be when winter sets in.  Nevertheless an overcoat was necessary.

There are two houses in the Russian parliamentary system, the Duma with 450 members and the Federation Council which comprises of 2 members from each of Russia’s 83 federation councils and consists of 166 members.

There have been five parliamentary elections since the collapse of communism.  The Communist Party prevailed in the 1995 and 1999 election but the United Russian party now holds sway with a 38% share of the vote.

United Russia is the party of Medvedev and Putin and is made up of an alliance of other parties.

Russia is not a jurisdiction that easily facilitates new political groupings.  A new political entity is expected to gather 200,000 signatures of support and post a deposit of $2.5 million.

There has been external criticism of the conduct of Russian elections and everyone I spoke with stresses the predictability of the outcome.

On Tuesday when I was being driven through the traffic-clogged city we came across 7 or 8 heavy Soviet style security vehicles filled with security personnel wearing blue camouflage uniforms and faces with a menacing expression.  A protest was pending.  Later that evening I was walking along Tverskaya Street, Moscow’s equivalent to Grafton Street Dublin, Rodeo Drive in Beverley Hills and Newbury Street in Boston.  I couldn’t help but notice the number of these uniformed personnel with their menacing lumpenproletariat  faces walking along the pavement.  Some were accompanied by plain clothes personnel carrying walkie-talkies on the look out for potential trouble makers.  The expression was devised by Karl Marx to describe brothel keepers, beggars and 3-card trick type.  But these were the security arm of the Russian State and all I would say is that, as infants, they were probably bottle fed, rather than breast fed.

I didn’t see any potential trouble makers  but I was told that there were some who made the evening television news.

Opinion polls suggest that United Russia will capture a 50% share of the poll with the balance split between six other parties.

The overall mood in Russia is somewhat subdued with the Central Bank predicting a flight of capital from country of the order of $70 billion this year instead of the $36 billion predicted at the beginning of the year.  The flight of capital in 2009 was $56.1 billion but it dropped to $35.3 billion last year.

Tomorrow, I will escape the grim grey ambience of Moscow and travel to Johannesburg where summer is just beginning!

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