In light of the Russian parliamentary elections that took place between 17and19 September, The High Representative is the chief co-ordinator and representative of the EU foreign affairs policy. The position is currently held by Josep Borrell. High Representative Josep Borrell stressed that the EU does not recognise the elections held in the occupied Crimean peninsula and Sevastopol. The EU’s stance was shared in a declaration issued on behalf of all EU The 27 countries that are part of the EU. See the list of all members here. Member States.
Borrell’s tone also showed the EU’s distress over the lack of respect of liberal values in the country, as he adds that ‘in the run-up to the elections, there was an increased crackdown on opposition politicians, civil society organisations and independent media outlets, as well as journalists. This resulted in the limitation of the choice for Russian voters and their ability to get full and accurate information about candidates’.
2021 russian parliamentary election fraud?
Various frauds were already reported both before and during the 2021 parliamentary election. Opposition figures were taken out of the political scene. For example, opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been in jail since February 2021, and a Russian court banned his political organization in early June, labelling it as ‘extremist’.
Despite Navalny and his organization were unable to participate in the elections, he and his supporters believed that the Smart Voting initiative would still be a useful tool to direct Russian citizens in the 2021 election.
However, the Smart Voting initiative, a strategy by Navalny that was first set up in 2018 and whose aim is to disclose the candidates that most likely would defeat Putin’s party, was shut down shortly before the election days. This happened as a consequence of the Kremlin’s pressure on both tech-giants Google and Apple to remove applications and other links to Navalny’s system, seen by Moscow’s authorities as ‘election interference’.
Another controversial point was the span of the election of three days for a unique voting day. Ella Pamfilova, the head of Russia’s Central Election Commission, said that this was a necessity brought by the Covid-19 pandemic. Spanning the elections over the course of three days would reduce long-standing crowds to the polls and assure public health. However, Putin’s critics claimed that this benefitted Putin’s party as, for example, ballots were not secured at night, allowing easier fraudulent activities.
The political opposition also criticised the online voting system used in six Russian regions – Moscow, Sevastopol, Kursk, Nizhny Novgorod, Yaroslavl, Murmansk and Rostov – for being too opaque and lacking security procedures, for instance securing that double votes are not possible.
RESULTS AND IMPORTANCE OF 2021 RUSSIAN PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION
According to Statista sources, the Putin-affiliated United Russia party appears to maintain a constitutional majority in the Duma, the Russian parliament, with 49.82% of seats. The Communist party follows suit, with 18.93% of votes, while other parties have marginal percentages compared to Putin’s party (all below 8%).
This election is of fundamental importance for Russian President Vladimir Putin. In view of the next Russian presidential election, which will be held in 2024, Putin might likely aspire to run for his fifth mandate as President. Moreover, assuring a majority in the Duma would also make it easier and faster for Putin to pass laws and constitutional amendments.
The EU-Russian relations have deteriorated since the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea, originally controlled by Ukraine. The EU has never recognised the annexation and has often called upon Russia to free Crimea and Sevastopol, Crimea’s largest city and port. Borell’s statement thus reiterates the EU solidarity with Ukraine and the importance of liberal values, such as freedom of expression and fair and transparent elections.