electoral seismographs I

I had the opportunity to talk with Prof. Busygina, an expert on federalism and the economies of space at the MGIMO yesterday. We discussed the question of elections in Russia very briefly, but verz fruitful. There are four major points, that can be considered the results of this meeting. First, it is easy to run elections when there is no real opposition and therefore the chance of a defeat of the party of power is very little. Second, she told me about serious rumours that United Russia probably will experience a schism. This, in my opinion, might partly happen because the experiment of Just Russia did not work. Third, Prof. Busygina pointed out that the most important development of the last years was that there are less elections that ever since the elections of the governors were abolished. And last, not least, I asked her what she thinks the functions of parties and elections in Russia are. The answer was a little more complex, but I will briefly summarize it: People are really habitualized to elections as even the Soviet System held elections. The difference today is that they have a choice, and that there is an opposition, even if it is compliant with the system. I argued  that elections probably are the only possibility for the elites to stay in touch with the electorate and probably have the function of a political seismograph and, after thinking about it, she agreed. Even though there are a lot of opinion polls, there is little credible information passing from the bottom to the top because of the huge problem of social desirability researchers have to deal with in Russia. Apparently, she said, people first look at you to estimate what the interviewers expectations are, and then they adjust their answer. But as they are habitualized to elections and now have the possibility to choose where to make their cross, the percentage of the party of power and of the other parties serves as a good indicator for the satisfaction of the electorate with the (national or local) government, at least in the urban regions. This is a very interesting argument.  It will be interesting to do further research and fieldstudies on this pattern of what i call “electoral seismography”.

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