President Dmitri Medvedev urged Russians on Friday to vote “for the future” and stability in electing a majority for the ruling party. United Russia is expected to win the upcoming parliamentary elections which would clear the way for Medvedev to succeed Vladimir Putin as prime minister next year.
The Russian leaders announced their power switch in September. Putin, who served as chief executive for two consecutive terms between 2000 and 2008, is almost certain to win the presidential election in March although his party’s approval ratings have declined modestly, dropping from roughly 60 to over 50 percent in two years.
United Russia will retain its majority but it will be a less comfortable one. It will probably no longer be able to enact constitutional reforms without opposition.
President Medvedev tried to rally support for his party in a televised address, referencing the political chaos of the 1990s when the legislature was bitterly divided before United Russia surged. “Will this be a legislative body that is torn by irreconcilable differences and is unable to decide anything,” he wondered, “as we have unfortunately already had in our history?”
Or will we get a functioning legislature where the majority are responsible politicians who can help raise the quality of life of our people, whose actions will be guided by the voters’ interests and national interests?
Despite vocal opposition from political activist who accuse the ruling party of nepotism and corruption, Putin is still by far the most popular politician in the country with an approval rating north of 60 percent. United Russia dominates television coverage which is overwhelmingly loyalist but online and in newspapers, criticism of the Kremlin and the ruling party is regularly published. More than 30 percent of Russians have Internet access.
The communists will probably secure the second largest parliamentary faction in Sunday’s election. They currently poll at 20 percent. The social democrats could clear the 7 percent election threshold while minority liberal parties are unlikely to win any seats.