Half of all Russian voters believe that the next election cycle will be dishonest and fraudulent. Yet, they still favor the current regime with 70%+ Soviet-like approval ratings. Meaning . . . that they couldn't care less whether their government is a sham or not. The Guardian reports:
Almost half of Russia's voters expect that the parliamentary election this year will be falsified by the ruling elite and defy the will of the people, a new poll indicates.
In a sign of discontent with the Kremlin's manipulation of party politics, the Levada Centre discovered that 65% of 1,600 respondents were in favour of returning the chance to mark a ballot "against all candidates", a right removed in order to cut down on protest votes.
Only 8% of those surveyed predicted that the election in December would be fair, and a third said they would consider the new parliament illegitimate.
Vladimir Putin's administration has recently led a sustained attack on small liberal opposition parties, banning them or excluding them from local elections.
The veteran Yabloko party was struck from ballots in St Petersburg on a technicality in March. Last month the tiny Republican party was liquidated for having too few members.
The clampdown is seen as part of a wider push to consolidate control in the Kremlin, including increased pressure on non-governmental organisations and a series of prosecutions of regional leaders. Protesters at marches led by anti-Putin figures such as the former chess champion Garry Kasparov and the former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov were beaten last month.
The survey by Russia's top polling agency found that 39% of voters expected local electoral commissions to "fiddle" results, while 45% thought the results would not reflect the will of the people. A quarter said there was a risk of candidates "inconvenient to the powers" being excluded from voting lists.
Despite the cynicism, Mr Putin's personal ratings remain at an all-time high, reflecting the fact that he is not personally blamed for what many voters see as inevitable corruption. Almost a third of Russians would like him to become president for life next year, according to the poll.
"Citizens are convinced that these elections will go ahead with violations but they none the less consider that appointment by election is necessary," said Leonid Sedov of the Levada Centre.
Mr Putin is not a member of any party but endorses and receives support from United Russia, which dominates the state duma. A new Kremlin-controlled party, Fair Russia, was set up this year with the aim of winning Communist votes. Its leader, Sergei Mironov, is leading the campaign to change the constitution to allow Mr Putin to stand for a third term.
Fair Russia performed well in regional elections in March and is expected to vie for votes with United Russia. However, critics say the two parties simply represent bureaucratic clans within the ruling elite and are incapable of real political competition in voters' interests.
Liliya Shibanova, director of Golos (Voice), a group calling for free elections, said that the chief obstacle to fair voting was the exclusion of legitimate political forces. "We need to fight against that, to appeal to the courts in Strasbourg and to the international community," she said.
This year's parliamentary election will be followed next spring by the presidential poll. Two candidates are being groomed for the post: deputy prime ministers Dmitry Medvedev and Sergei Ivanov. It is widely expected that the winner will be the man endorsed by Mr Putin.