NYTimes details how Russian officials maintain their hold on democracy

NYTimes details how Russian officials maintain their hold on democracy
Russian President Vladimir Putin in April 2020, Wikimedia Commons
U.S. ambassador to Russia is ‘refusing to leave’ even though the Kremlin has ‘advised’ him to: report

Whenever there is a Russian election, the process flows seamlessly under the post-Soviet Constitution but the outcome is rarely different. President Vladimir V. Putin and the politicians loyal to his political cause typically come out victorious. Although parliamentary elections are scheduled for September 17-19, there is very little doubt that Putin's governing United Russian party will dominate. So, how does Putin and his party manage to remain victorious?

The New York Times has examined political practices in Russia and it appears there are a number of tactics employed to ensure elections work in the United Russian party's favor. From duplicate candidates and fake political candidates, internet regulation, "not-so-secret" ballots, oppositional counter-tactics, and more, the publication is highlighting the strategies being used to clinch elections in Russia.

1. The use of "same-name candidates" is one of the most "tried and true" tactics of political manipulation in Russia.

One of the most "tried and true" tactics is the use of duplicate candidates. The newspaper Kommersant reportedly explained how duplicate candidates look on Russian ballots. "Registering multiple candidates with the same or similar names as an opposition candidate is a tried-and-true Russian electoral tactic," the publication notes of the practice which Boris Vishnevskys describes as "political manipulation." "Candidates with identical or similar names are registered in 24 of the 225 single-district races in this week's election — about 10 percent of all races."

2. Fake political parties also run amok in Russia.

The Russian government operates according to what is described as a "multiparty political system" that was established when Putin assumed power back in 1999. The publication notes that the Kremlin now has two political strategies: "fake political parties and several quasi-independent parties" it defines as "systemic opposition."

3. Some candidates are blatantly disqualified from elections.

Then there are more flagrant tactics of manipulation such as blatantly knocking names off ballots. Just this summer, local authorities managed to eliminate 163 out of 174 candidates who submitted applications to run for Parliament due to frivolous accusations. The publication notes that a 2012 law enacted opened the door for a more expansive means of knocking candidates off ballots.

Per the publication:

"A law allowing the designation of nongovernmental groups as "performing the function of a foreign agent" was passed in 2012 and then expanded in 2017 to cover news media organizations. Its application this summer squelched independent news outlets like Meduza, Proyekt and Dozhd television. A 2015 amendment to the law had allowed groups to be designated "undesirable organizations," with additional restrictions."

4. Voters can be bought when candidates offer "walking-around money."

In the time period leading up to elections, the Russian government has the ability to offer "walking-around money" in exchange for voters' support. The publication reports: "The Russian government typically offers one-off payments to soldiers, public sector workers, and retirees a few weeks before the election."

Those types of payouts have often been lauded and highlighted in pro-government advertisements. In one campaign video, a soldier's girlfriend said, "After our president signed a decree on one-time payments to soldiers, cadets and police officers, I feel confident about my future."

5. Potential voter intimidation by way of "not-so-secret" ballots.

Since online voting is legal in Russia, many employers have arrangements in place for their employees to cast votes on computer systems set up by company human resources departments. The practice has been criticized as there are concerns about employees' voting selections being monitored which could be a form of voter intimidation.

6. Internet regulation and oppositional countertactics.

By controlling the internet, the Russian government has the power to restrict what is perpetuated to the masses. For example, the publication highlighted what occurred this summer. "The authorities banned about four dozen websites affiliated with Mr. Navalny's movement that were promoting his voting guide for the elections."

All of these tactics have worked as a way for the Russian government to maintain its firm grip on democracy.

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