Russia will hold local elections on September 11-13. In contrast to previous years, voting will take place over three days, culminating on Sunday, Russia’s “single voting day”. Elections will occur in 83 regions.
In 18 regions, Russians will elect a governor. Political experts note that there are no regions where gubernatorial opposition candidates present a high risk of a runoff, although the change in election protocol makes it more difficult to predict outcomes.
Another new feature of this election is the increased pressure being placed on the Communist Party (KPRF). The KPRF opted not to advance candidates in two gubernatorial races. Election officials then rejected the registration of KPRF candidates in five regions. As a result, the KPRF is running candidates in just 11 of 18 gubernatorial campaigns. The party risks losing its status as a leader of the systemic opposition. A new study from the Levada Center shows that the LDPR is notably more popular than the KPRF going into this week’s elections.
What is the opposition’s strategy in the local elections? Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) is yet again organising “smart voting” to co-ordinate the protest vote and maximise the chance of defeating United Russia candidates.
According to FBK’s Leonid Volkov, public interest in “smart voting” has grown significantly since Navalny’s poisoning. Volkov notes that this year’s local elections are an important trial run for the 2021 Duma elections, both for the authorities and the opposition.
The regime is testing out new falsification technologies and three-day voting, while the opposition is trying to strengthen the use of smart voting. If it goes well this election, smart voting will have an even bigger boost next year, Volkov claims.
This article originally appeared in FPRI's BMB Russia newsletter. Click here to learn more about BMB Ukraine and subscribe to the newsletter.