The new Duma. Same as the old Duma?

It’s imporant to point out amid all the coverage of this weekend’s Russian legislative elections, during which the ruling United Russia party saw its majority in the State Duma reduced, that this doesn’t actually mean that the Kremlin is losing control over the body. Here are the latest results: With more than 95 percent of ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images
ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images
ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images

It's imporant to point out amid all the coverage of this weekend's Russian legislative elections, during which the ruling United Russia party saw its majority in the State Duma reduced, that this doesn't actually mean that the Kremlin is losing control over the body.

Here are the latest results:

With more than 95 percent of the votes processed, United Russia led with a shade under 50 percent, trailed by the Communists with 19 percent, Just Russia with 13 percent and the Liberal Democrats with nearly 12 percent, according to the Central Election Commission. 

It’s imporant to point out amid all the coverage of this weekend’s Russian legislative elections, during which the ruling United Russia party saw its majority in the State Duma reduced, that this doesn’t actually mean that the Kremlin is losing control over the body.

Here are the latest results:

With more than 95 percent of the votes processed, United Russia led with a shade under 50 percent, trailed by the Communists with 19 percent, Just Russia with 13 percent and the Liberal Democrats with nearly 12 percent, according to the Central Election Commission. 

Parties need 7 percent of the vote to be represented in the Duma, which means that small opposition parties like the liberal Yabloko — despite its impressive showing among expats — is out of luck. 

As for the parties that will be represented, don’t expect much vigorous debate over the Kremlin’s policies. The Kremlin has supported the rise of A Just Russia — the product of a merger of several smaller leftist parties — as a pro-Klemlin leftist alternative to the Communists. When the party was founded in 2006, Putin sent a note of support, calling it "proof of a growing creative potential in Russian society." The party’s leaders proclaimed at its founding that "We will follow the course of President Vladimir Putin and will not allow anyone to veer from it after Putin leaves his post in 2008." One analyst described it as he party of the president’s left foot complementing the right foot of United Russia."

As for the LDPR, it is led led by ultranationalist clown Vladimir Zhirinovsky, whose innovative policy ideas include dropping an atom bomb in the North Atlantic to flood Britain, and has long served as a useful foil for both Boris Yeltsin and Putin/Medvedev, sucking up right-wing votes, making Russia’s leaders look reasonable by comparison, and starting meaningless feuds with other fringe opposition figures while his deputies vote for the Kremlin’s policies.

As for the Communists, they have a steady, but likely soon declining base of support, among retirees that leader Gennady Zyuganov stokes with frequent invocations of Soviet glory past. Despite Zyuganov’s promises to "give the people their stolen wealth back," wealthy business people often appear on its ticket. Putin — not someone who generally takes criticism well — has never seemed particularly bothered by Zyuganov’s haranguing, and even presented the grateful Communist leader with an early Soviet edition of the Communist Manifesto on his 65th birthday.

This isn’t to say that there isn’t growing dissatisfaction with the Putin-Medvedev tandem or that United Russia’s lower than expected result isn’t a sign of that, but for now, Russia’s political machine seems built to absorb the shocks. 

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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