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Russian Socialists in the Struggle for Democracy

For the past few weeks, protests for fair elections in upcoming municipal polls have become weekly in Moscow and St. Petersburg as thousands have defied authorities to attend unsanctioned rallies. The police crackdown has been particularly harsh in Moscow. Protests on July 27 and August 3 resulted in over 2000 detentions. Images of police in riot gear wrestling citizens to the ground and beating peaceful protesters were reminiscent of the mass protests against election fraud in 2011-2012.

Members of the Russian Socialist Movement, a small Marxist, anti-Stalinist organization active in the Russian left, have been participants in local electoral campaigns and in the protests. Two RSM activists, Valeria Kovelishina and Ilya Budraitskis talk about the Russian Socialist Movement, their electoral work, the protests for democracy in Russia and what they might mean for the future.

Witnessing the Collapse of Communism

Roundtable discussion marking the 30th anniversary of the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. Participants include Timothy Garton Ash, Bridget Kendall, and Jens Reich.

The Evictors

Around Moscow, there’s a whole industry of so-called “black creditors” — microfinance institutions (or MFOs) that swindle and seize debtors’ homes. Ivan Golunov’s investigation for Meduza has discovered that almost 500 apartments have been seized from their owners over the past five years without so much as a court order. In fact, this scheme involves more than simply “squeezing” people from their homes. It is possibly part of a wider, international money-laundering system. Here’s Meduza special correspondent Ivan Golunov on the ins and outs of this industry.

5th Duma Slated to Look like 4th Duma

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Here are the official results TsIK (Central Electoral Commission) head Vladimir Churov gave at a press conference.

United Russia: 64.1%
Communist Party of the Russian Federation: 11.6%
Liberal Democratic Party: 8.2%
Just Russia: 7.8%
Agrarian Party of Russia: 2.3%
Yabloko: 1.6%
Civil Forces: 1.1%
Union of Right Forces: 1.0%
Patriots of Russia: 0.9%
Party of Social Justice: 0.2%
Democratic Party of Russia: 0.1%

The turnout of the election was 63% of registered voters.

According to VTsIOM, the 5th Duma break down might be as follows:

United Russia: 313 seats.
Communist Party: 62 seats
LDPR: 40 seats
Just Russia: 35

In comparison to the composition of the 4th Duma, here are the gains and losses for each party when they enter the 5th Duma:

United Russia: +13
Communist Party : +15
LDPR: +11
Just Russia: +2

The fact that each party gained seats is because the 7 percent threshold cut the chaff from the wheat. When the percentages of the 4th and 5th Duma are compared, you get the following gains and losses.

United Russia: -1.9%
Communist Party: -1.2%
LDPR: +1.8%
Just Russia: +.5%

Well, this breakdown in gains and losses puts things into perspective. Essentially, there will be no real difference between the 4th and 5th Dumas. The only notable difference is the restructuring of the legislature’s composition to reflect the 7 percent law. SPS leader Boris Nadezhdin told RFE/RL that the election means that Russia “is a different country now. We have returned to the Soviet Union. It is not parliament or the next president that will have real power, but the United Russia party.” I don’t see what difference he’s talking about. Nor do I see how “the new combination of power gives the party and those who control it virtually a blank check in terms of remaking Russia’s political balance.” Um, that was kinda already the case.

Much as been made of upping the parliamentary threshold from 5 to 7 percent in July 2005. But given the returns for yesterday’s election, Russia’s liberal parties still wouldn’t have made it into the Duma even if the law stayed the same. This is still the case even if you combine Yabloko and SPS votes. Now one can say what they want about how managed and manipulated the Russian election was. But at some point SPS and Yabloko are going to have to ask themselves why they have no meaningful constituency. And blaming the Kremlin isn’t the answer.