Russian elections: how would you vote?

Gosh, just when you may have thought that nobody cared, an interesting opinion poll arrived in Russian email ( inboxes.

Если бы сегодня были выборы в Государственную думу, то за какого бы вы проголосовали? (If the parliamentary elections were today, for which party would you vote?)

That was the question and below were 10 options:

Единая Россия
Справедливая Россия
Правое дело
Патриоты России
Кто-то другой
Не стал бы участвовать
Затрудняюсь ответить

So, the Russian DUMA elections are approaching in 2 months (4 December) and somebody wants to know what I am thinking. First off, I’m thinking that as non-citizen I simply won’t be voting.

But were I a voter, would it matter?

Yes, actually.

Option 1:
Many opposition leaders are calling for a boycott of the elections, both in December and in the March (2012) presidential election. Their reasoning is that any vote, no matter for whom cast, legitimizes a corrupt process and that a significant boycott would bring the kind of international attention not desired by those in power.

I’m thinking that Leonid Brezhnev, whom Mr. Putin delights in the comparisons, didn’t care who voted or not either. He was in power for 18 years until death and what Soviet “voters” thought was of little consequence.

Option 2:
Vote, making certain the vote is for a truly independent party and not one of the Kremlin inspired “opposition” groups whose sole purpose is to make the world think that United Russia isn’t the only party in Russia.

Unfortunately that makes the above list a lot thinner.

However it is the lower house of parliament that works with the Administration to draft the state budget. So in some respects a no vote gives over that entire process to a single party.

There are other reasons for voting: to have a legitimate say in legislation, a party must have at least a 7 percent of the total vote in order to hold Duma seats and to form alliances. Below that threshold limits both the number of seats and disqualifies the party from being part of an alliance.

Also, a party must have a minimum of 3 percent in order to qualify for state financing. Below that minimum means political starvation in a country where the state pays for political activities.

So, were you to cast a vote, for which party?

The Communists (КПРФ) have apparently decided that creation of a “new union of fraternal nations” (can you say “Soviet Union?”) is their most important platform message.

Meanwhile over at the Liberal Democratic Party (ЛДПР) the folks have decided that the most important issue facing Russia today is porn on the Internet. A vote for them is a vote to ban porn. The LDPR actually did well in 2007, garnering 8.14% of the vote, and with it 40 of 450 seats in the State Duma. The LDPR was built around the fiery Vladimir Zhirinovsky, seen by many as sort of a nationalist nutcase. He is opposed to both communism and what the party describes as “wild” capitalism. It has a strong nationalist bend and therefore against immigration of non-ethnic Russians.

Or, there is the Just Cause (Правое дело) party. In my mind the jury is still out on “Just Cause.” It was a Kremlin creation, helped along by current president Dmitry Medvedev, and the platform seeks to limit the power of United Russia in general and Vladimir Putin in particular. Led, or until recently that is, by the provocative Mikhail Prokhorov, is it a real party, or a just delusion created to deflect criticism?

Of course one could vote for the Apple Party (Яблоко). After the 2007 election they held 0 seats, yes zero, yet remain one of the most “popular” parties in public polling. Yabloko was the first true opposition party and perhaps the most truly democratic of the bunch. They have opposed every president from Boris Yeltsin to Vladimir Putin to Dmitry Medvedev and soon again, Vladimir Putin.

Exit-polls by both international and opposition observers say that Yabloko passed the 2007 threshold of 5% needed for parliamentary representation and should have rightly been granted 20 parliamentary seats. Russian election authorities disagreed.

If eligible, how would you vote?