Russia’s ruling United Russia party has slid in the polls to below the threshold it needs to win a majority in the September 18 parliamentary election.
United Russia’s popularity fell from 39% in July to 31% in August, according to the independent Levada Center pollster. Analysts say that since the parliamentary election system was changed to include more single-mandate votes, United Russia would need to win around 35% of the popular vote to secure a majority of the seats in the new State Duma lower chamber.
The party also saw its share of the vote fall among the narrower definition of those who said they would definitely vote, from 65% in January to 50% now, according to Levada. At the same time, the approval rating of the top of the United Russia party list, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, also saw his approval rating fall significantly from 55% to 48% in the last month. The rating of President Vladimir Putin remained unchanged at 82%.
A total of four parties would currently pass the 5% threshold to enter the Duma; after United Russia, the next most popular party is the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) with an unchanged 10% of the vote. Next is the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), headed by the ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, which also saw its support slip one point to 9%. Just Russia (aka Fair Russia), the pseudo-liberal opposition in the Duma, is the only party to see its popularity increase significantly in the last month with its rating rising from 3% to 5%.
None of the other parties on the roster would make it over the 5% threshold. Most notably the veteran opposition party Yabloko, led by Grigory Yavlinsky, has seen its popularity collapse and is currently polling about 1%. The party won four seats in 2003 to enter the Duma when the threshold was 4%, but lost them again in the 2007 elections. Although it did relatively well in the 2011 election, winning 3.43% of the vote, that was still not enough to enter the Duma again. However, the party has since won some seats in elections for regional parliaments.
Maybe the most disappointing result is the very poor showing of Parnas (the People’s Freedom Party), which is supposed to be the genuine modern opposition headed by former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov. This was a merger between several liberal opposition groups in an effort to present a united front to the Kremlin’s party of power and ensure at least some representation in the Duma. Among its members are People’s Freedom Party “For Russia without Lawlessness and Corruption”, United People’s Party of Soldiers’ Mothers, the Peasant Party of Russia and Forward Russia!
However, Parnas has torn itself apart by infighting in recent months, presenting a hopelessly confused image to the general public. Kasyanov was caught in a sex tape shown on national TV talking ill of his fellow opposition leaders, who took umbrage and demanded in vain that Kasyanov withdraw his name from the top of the party list.
Ilya Yashin, one of the new breed of young opposition leaders, has since followed up with a report claiming United Russia has ties to organized crime, but the rest of his party disassociated themselves from the report. The upshot is Russia’s legitimate opposition is in total disarray, leaving the Kremlin with a clear run at the Duma majority.
Another significant finding to come out of the poll is the deep apathy over the election amongst voters. Between 1% and 2% of the popualtion, or about 15mn people, are so disenchanted with the election that they intend to spoil their ballot papers. A total of 12% of voters have still not made up their mind who to vote for, but an even largers proportion, 15%, say they won’t vote at all, with another 10% who haven’t made up their mind if they will participate. All in all, almost two-fifths of Russians are sitting on the fence.
|If state Duma elections were held on Sunday who would you vote for?|
|January 16||February 16||March 16||April 16||May 16||June 16||July 16||August 16|
|All-Russian political party "United Russia"||39||40||40||42||35||35||39||31|
|"The Communist Party of the Russian Federation" (the Communist Party)||10||10||13||10||14||11||10||10|
|"The Liberal Democratic Party of Russia" (Liberal Democratic Party)||5||6||6||7||9||9||10||9|
|Political party "Fair Russia"||3||3||3||3||2||3||3||5|
|Russian United Democratic Party "Yabloko"||<1||<1||<1||<1||<1||<1||1||1|
|Russian Ecological Party "The Greens"||-||-||-||-||<1||<1||<1||1|
|Political party "Civic Platform"||1||<1||1||1||<1||1||<1||<1|
|Will spoil ballot||-||1||1||2||1||2||2||1|
|Dont know who to vote for||-||10||11||8||11||11||11||12|
|I wont vote||19||16||12||10||12||14||11||15|
|Not decided whether to vote yet||-||11||10||12||12||11||10||10|
|source: Levada Center|