Electoral systemThe threshold for eligibility to win seats is 7.0 percent. In addition, a party which receives between 5.0 and 6.0 percent will get 1 seat in the Duma and those which receive between 6.0 and 7.0 percent will get 2 seats.
Political partiesAll seven registered political parties were approved to participate in the elections. Parties which were present in the State Duma (United Russia, Communist Party, Liberal Democratic Party and A Just Russia) were automatically eligible to participate in the elections. Other parties needed to present at least 150,000 signatures (with a maximum of 5000 signatures per region) to the Central Electoral Commission before 19 October.
CampaignThere was relatively little sign of campaign activity on the ground: few posters, few street agitators, and few people gathering at non-United Russia campaign rallies. Candidates debates were often brief and aired at odd times of day (such as 7 a.m. on First Channel) and typically featured strange pairings of parties and not always the top figures on their party lists.
United RussiaThe main parliamentary party, the ruling United Russia headed by Vladimir Putin (he is not a member of the party, yet he is its leader), went into the next elections with a renewed platform. Putin announced the All-Russia People's Front, creation of a pre-election People's Front to allow non-party candidates (up to 25%) to win election on the United Russia ticket. At the party conference which nominated Putin to the presidency and Medvedev to head the party list leader, the pre-election program was published, with 8 basic guidelines: *Modernize the economy, the Education in Russia, educational system, and the Defense industry of Russia, technical-military industry. *Fulfill social obligations. Raise salaries, pensions, and increase grants. Combat poverty and modernize public health services. *Eradicate corruption. Achieve Transparency in government, transparency in bureaucrat's salaries, state purchases, and measures taken by ministries and departments. *Strengthen the Judiciary of Russia, judicial system on the principles of independence, Transparency in government, transparency, and justice. Make the penal code more humane on so-called economic crimes and toughen punishments for violent Crime in Russia, crime, most of for all crimes committed against children and for terrorist acts. *Support international and interfaith peace. Fight against illegal immigration, illegal migration, ethnic crime, and displays of Racism in Russia, xenophobia and separatism. Support the free growth of all cultures and all confessional traditions of the peoples of Russia. *Develop a modern political system which will allow everyone including the smallest social groups to be heard and included in state and Social policy, social administration processes and to be assured that there are no people without rights or protections in the country. *Ensure our internal and external security with an effective Russian Police, police force and a powerful Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, Armed Forces. Raise the prestige of serving in the army, the Russian Navy, navy, and Law enforcement in Russia, law enforcement agencies. *An independent and rational domestic policy ultimately pursues only one goal: to improve the welfare of the people and to guarantee their safety. Our integration projects must create new possibilities for development, for citizens and for business. Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia, The customs union between Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan is working. A united economic space will become a reality starting 1 January of next year, leading to an even deeper degree of integration. And then we will advance even further to the creation of the Eurasian Union. This program was reportedly constructed from excerpts taken from speeches previously given by Prime Minister Putin and President Medvedev. United Russia Party Chairman Putin and party list leader Medvedev did not participate in them at all. Television campaign ads were not frequently aired, and what ads that ran tended to be of strikingly low production value.
A Just RussiaA Just Russia (Russian: Spravedlivaya Rossia) hoped that being "persecuted by the authorities" will give it a more useful oppositional image. The party managed to turn itself into a credible receptacle for anti-United Russia votes through an aggressive campaign attacking the party. While some of its critical ads were blocked, it still managed to air others that blasted official corruption and declared that "swindlers and thieves" (a clear implicit reference to United Russia) were not needed.
The Communist PartyIn its programme entitled "The majority is destined to win. Return the Motherland stolen from us!", the CPRF promoted a stronger role of the state in the political and social sphere and the nationalization of mineral resources and other raw materials. It called for a re-appraisal of Foreign relations of Russia, Russia's foreign policy posture, the creation of a 'Union of Brotherhood' on the territory of the former Soviet Union, a stronger role for the United Nations and the dissolution of NATO. The CPRF demanded 'genuine democratisation' of the Russian political system including a stronger role for the Federal Assembly of Russia, parliament, the restoration of regional elections, and the confiscation of property acquired through corruption. It tasked itself with representing the 'patriotic majority' of the population in the parliament and with making sure that executive power is being exercised for the sake of the common good.
The Liberal Democratic partyIn the run-up to this election, the party had been highlighting the need to defend the interests of ethnic Russians, although it had generally been careful not to cross the line into openly nationalist rhetoric.
Alleged foreign involvementIn the pre-election campaign period the GOLOS Association watchdog was the largest organization independent from participating parties that reported on campaign violations. The online service it set up to collect reports recorded 5,300 complaints regarding violations of electoral law. Most of the violations were linked to United Russia and about a third of the complaints were from state employees and students who said they were pressured by their employers/professors to vote for United Russia. On 1 December 2011 prosecutors in Moscow served GOLOS with papers alleging that the organisation had portrayed an unnamed political party in a bad light. The unnamed party has been identified as being United Russia. On 2 November a Moscow court fined GOLOS 30 000 roubles (about US$1000) for violations of the electoral law of Russia.Суд оштрафовал ассоциацию "Голос"
IrregularitiesDuring and after the election international media and local independent websites reported serious irregularities during the election, including ballot stuffing, misuse of state resources, media bias and lack of impartiality by the Central Election Commission of Russia, election commission. The Russian state-owned news agency RIA Novosti reported more than 1,100 official complaints filed of election irregularities across the country, including Electoral fraud, vote fraud, obstruction of observers and illegal campaigning.
Reports by participating partiesMembers of the A Just Russia, Yabloko and Communist parties reported that certain voters were shuttled between polling stations, casting several ballots. The Yabloko and Liberal Democratic parties reported that some of their observers had been banned from witnessing the sealing of the ballot boxes and from gathering video footage, and others groundlessly expelled from polling stations. The ruling United Russia party alleged that opposition parties broke campaign law by distributing leaflets and newspapers at polling stations, and that at some polling stations the voters were ordered to vote for the Communist party with threats of violence.
Reports by independent groups and observersAt a number of polling stations throughout the country, observers reported that final results published by the Central Election Commission differed drastically from results recorded by observers, with the "official" numbers sometimes showing the United Russia vote inflated by a factor of two or three. Carousel voting was also observed in many areas. In Moscow, the opposition activist group Citizen Observer estimated that United Russia had stolen 17% of the popular vote from other parties. In Saint Petersburg, independent activist group Right to Elect ("Право выбора") attempted to register all differences between observers' protocols and the data of the Central Election Commission. They found that comparable shares of differences in votes were in favour not only of the United Russia, but of CPRF and LDPR parties as well (2.68%, 1.49% and 2.67% respectively as of the data on 13 December).
Reports by international observersInternational observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) documented numerous violations of electoral law. They found that whilst the preparations for the elections were technically well administered, they were marked by a "convergence of the State and the governing party". They said they witnessed "undue interference of state authorities", "partiality of most media" and "lack of independence of the election administration". Denying registration to some political parties narrowed political competition, according to the OSCE. The OCSE concluded that "This...did not provide the necessary conditions for fair electoral competition." However, international observers from the Commonwealth of Independent States reported that the elections "were held legally and without serious violations." Yet given government's control over the Central Electoral Commission and the exclusion of many independent observers from participation in monitoring voting and vote tabulation, it is exceedingly difficult to assess the degree of falsification in the election.
Official reaction to the reports on irregularitiesAccording to Vladimir Putin's Press Secretary, Dmitry Peskov, the known accumulated volume of all reports on falsifications affects no more than 0.5% of total votes, and so this could not be a basis to reconsider the results of the elections.Песков: объем нарушений на выборах в Госдуму не превысил 0,5% голосов
Other irregularitiesVarious Russian liberal news websites reported experiencing denial of service attacks on the day of the election. United Russia was able to score 99.48% in the Chechen Republic and got to a lesser degree similar results in the neighbouring republics, a curiosity which was picked up by many international newspapers. The group's leader Lilya Shibanova was detained for twelve hours at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport on 2 December, and released only after giving her laptop to security personnel there.
Investigation of the reports on irregularities
Official reports to the Central Electoral CommissionThe Central Electoral Commission issued a report on 3 February 2012, in which it said that it received the total of 1686 reports on irregularities, of which only 195 (11.5%) were confirmed true after investigation. About a third of reports (584) actually contained questions about the unclear points of electoral law rather than reports of irregularities, and there were only 60 complaints claiming falsifications of the elections results.
Investigation of videosOn 4 February 2012 the Investigation Committee of the Office of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation announced that the majority of videos allegedly showing falsifications at polling stations were in fact falsified and originally distributed from a single server in California. However, others (such as GOLOS) pointed out firstly, that 'falsification' was deemed to be 'editing' ('монтаж') – something unavoidable in fitting potentially hours of footage into a short internet clip, and secondly that "the server in California" might actually just be YouTube.
ResultsUnited Russia won the elections with a 49.32% share of votes (238 seats; 52.88% of Duma seats), down from 64.30% (70% of seats) in the 2007 elections. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation received 19.19% (92 seats), while the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia got 11.67% (56 seats) and A Just Russia 13.24% (64 seats). Other parties did not cross the 7% election threshold, and the list of parties in the parliament did not change. United Russia lost its Two-thirds majority, two-thirds constitutional majority, but still won an absolute majority. The Communist Party, Liberal Democratic Party and A Just Russia all got a higher level of representation in the parliament compared to the previous 2007 Russian legislative election, 2007 elections.
Results per region
Reactions*: President of Russia, President Dmitry Medvedev has called for an investigation into the alleged fraud, but played down concerns, stating that "It's time to give the new parliament a chance to work and, of course, to investigate everything that happened." *: Prime Minister of Russia, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said that Hillary Clinton "set the tone for some opposition activists" to act "in accordance with colour revolution, a well-known scenario and in their own mercenary political interests ... our people do not want the situation in Russia to develop Tulip revolution, like it was in Kyrgyzstan or Orange revolution, not so long ago in Ukraine." He said that "it is unacceptable when foreign money is pumped into election processes" and that Russia's sovereignty should be defended from foreign interference. Putin also claimed that elections in the U. S. are much less liberal than in Russia and less open to independent observers. *Mikhail Gorbachev, the final President of the Soviet Union, Soviet leader, has called for new elections and stated that the election was slanted in favour of United Russia. He has demanded a rerun, stating: "The country's leaders must admit there were numerous falsifications and rigging and the results do not reflect the peoples' will." He added: "I think [Russia's leaders] can only take one decision – annul the results of the election and hold a new one." *: United States Secretary of State, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on a trip to Vienna that Russia's election was "neither free, nor fair" and that there were "serious concerns" about the fairness of the election. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia called Clinton's and other U.S. officials' comments "unacceptable", and criticized the American support of "stereotypes" and the "placement of labels" without proper attempts at a serious analysis of the electoral situation in Russia. The Ministry also criticized the Elections in the United States, United States' own electoral system.
AftermathOn 4 November 2011, a month before elections, during the annual "Russian March" event representatives of the nationalist Russians (organization), The Russians movement declared a protest action to begin on the election day after polling closes. As there was no official rally permit, the action was unapproved. It took place on 4 December at 21.00 in Moscow. Spokesman Alexander Belov declared the beginning of the «Putin, go away!» campaign. Several hundred people participated in the protest, which resulted in running battles with riot police. The Russians leaders Alexander Potkin, Alexander Belov, Dmitry Dyomushkin, George Borovikov and dozens of other nationalists were arrested. The head of the banned Movement Against Illegal Immigration, DPNI organization Vladimir Yermolaev was detained at a voting station where he was an observer. Also, mass detentions from other public organizations have occurred in Moscow. According to police some 258 persons have been detained. On 5 December, up to 8,000 opponents of the government began protesting in Moscow, denouncing Vladimir Putin and his government and what they believed were flawed elections. Protesters argued that the elections had been a sham and demanded that Putin step down, whilst some demanded revolution. On 6 December, 15,000 pro-United Russia activists marched near Red Square with 2,000 gathering in a different downtown location, while 5,000 people marched in protest at the same time. Truckloads of soldiers and police, as well as a water cannon, were deployed ahead of expected anti-government protests. 300 protesters had been arrested in Moscow the night before, along with 120 in St. Petersburg. During the night of 6 December, at least 600 protesters were reported to be in Triumphalnaya Square chanting slogans against Putin, Meanwhile, anti-government protesters at Revolution Square near the Kremlin clashed with riot police and Ministry of Internal Affairs (Russia), interior ministry troops, with the police chasing around 100 away and arresting others. Protest numbers later reached over 1,000 at Triumphalnaya Square and dozens were arrested, including Boris Nemtsov, an opposition leader and former deputy prime minister, and Alexey Navalny, a top blogger and activist.Ioffe, Julia
Comparison with exit polls and forecastsIt is not possible to compare exit polls to the numbers reported by the election commission because no nationwide exit polls were conducted outside of the government. The only nationwide exit polls were conducted by the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) – the government-run polling organization controlled by the Labor Ministry. Therefore, there were no independent nationwide exit polls that took place during the elections. However, United Russia's final result, 49.32%, not only coincided with the Central Election Commission's exit poll figure of 48.5%, but actually fell somewhat below the results of pre-election surveys by the Levada Center, the foremost non-governmental, independent polling and sociological research organization in Russia. Levada Center polls in September–November, listed above, found levels of support for United Russia between 51% and 60%. The Election Commission reported that United Russia was also the leader in Moscow, with 46.5% of the vote. However, one early exit poll indicated that the share of United Russia was only 27%. The difference was attributed by some journalists to election fraud. The organization that provided the 27% figure subsequently withdrew its estimate, citing its low accuracy. A large number of violations captured on observers' mobile phones suggest that the numbers provided by the election commission were fraudulent. In one report from Moscow, a Yabloko observer captured the pre-filled final tabulation in the regional election commission showing 515 (75.8%) votes for United Russia for his election station No. 6, while the records of the station No. 6 showed mere 128 (18.9%) votes for United Russia. This casts more doubts on the legitimacy of the figures of the exit polls and overall votes reported by the government.
StatisticsAnalysis by the physicist Sergey Shpilkin published by Gazeta.ru, Lenta.Ru, Troitsky Variant and with others in Esquire (magazine), Esquire Russia reported on several characteristics of the election results which they view as evidence of fraud. Unlike elections in some other countries with a similar voting system, voter turnout does not display a normal distribution, and has distinct peaks appearing at multiples of 5%. Voter turnout exhibits a nearly linear relationship with the portion voting for United Russia, thus implying ballot stuffing in favor of UR. The distribution of percent voting for each party is not close to normal for United Russia either, unlike other parties. Similarly, percentages cast for United Russia have characteristic spikes at the round values of 50%, 60%, 70%, etc. Critics say, such a distribution might be a result of mass-scale fraud when local election commissions struggle to meet a certain objective, e.g. "60% for United Russia". Similar spikes also occurred in the 2007 Russian elections, and the political scientists Mikhail Myagkov, Peter Ordeshook and researcher Dmitri Shakin wrote that they are "consistent with the hypothesis that turnout numbers were manufactured artificially, with simple rounded numbers entered into official protocols." A team from Imperial College in London analysed the results and announced in May 2012 that they too suspected extensive fraud. ''The Wall Street Journal'', working with political scientists from the University of Michigan and the University of Chicago, published their own analysis of the election results, and pointed out a number of features which they believe indicate fraud. They estimate that as many as 14 million of the 65.7 million votes may be fraudulent. An article published in Polit Online looked at criticisms of the analysis. The supposition of Gaussian distribution was criticized by sociologist Aleksey Grazhdankin, a Deputy Director of Levada Center (top independent non-governmental polling and sociological research organization in Russia). Grazhdankin cites regional differences and the existence of the so-called "electoral enclaves" in Russia, which vote very differently from the surrounding areas, often because the recent rise of the quality of life in such enclaves is associated with the actions of the authorities. Grazhdankin says he does not believe the graphs with non-Gaussian distributions indicate vote fraud. Still, in his comment to Vedomosti, Grazhdankin claimed that the most likely explanation to abnormal results observed in Moscow is fraud. Statistician Mikhail Simkin has also argued that the vote distribution should not be necessarily normal.