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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Vote Worth Forgetting

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The level of media interest in Sunday's regional elections was rivaled only by the level of indifference on the part of the general public. Round table discussions were held, analyses written and forecasts published. The elections were even dubbed as "primaries" for the State Duma vote slated for December.

Maybe it was fair to call them primaries, but voters didn't show much interest. This makes sense, as these 14 regional contests were more for the people running than those who were voting.

The results produced both the predictable and the unexpected. United Russia's first-place showing overall and A Just Russia's strong show in its maiden outing were both foreseen by everybody. The surprise came in the different voting patterns in the various regions. The inconsistency makes trying to predict the results of December's vote pretty much pointless. In this respect, the elections were a bust as primaries.

The differences in the results between regions truly exceeded all expectations. In the Stavropol region, A Just Russia topped United Russia by a full 10 percent. And although United Russia dominated elsewhere, its percentage of the vote varied from the mid-30s in some western regions (almost 50 percent in the Moscow region) to overwhelming majorities in Siberia. A Just Russia's victory in Stavropol and second-place finish in St. Petersburg were impressive, but the party failed to gain any significant support in Omsk.

The Communist Party failed to to crack the 7-percent barrier in some regions, which will be the minimum needed to gain State Duma seats in December, although it did finish second in a number of regions. After spending big on the campaign, The Union of Right Forces achieved impressive success in Samara and almost gained a seat in the Moscow Region Duma, but fell far short of a strong national result. Tellingly, the party barely mentioned economic liberalism in its campaign, limiting itself largely to promises on pensions and squabbling with United Russia. Yabloko garnered little support anywhere, a result that was not helped by the fact it was struck from the ballot in St. Petersburg. The Green Party ran a candidate in only one region and managed to win a seat in Samara's legislative assembly, which could start a trend or just be a coincidence.

Voter turnout was low, but not as low as some had forecast. Suspicion remains that regional election commissions exaggerated turnout, and it's not hard to imagine who picked up the extra votes.

All of the major parties claimed success. United Russia, A Just Russia, the Communist Party, the Liberal Democratic Party and even the Union of Right Forces can focus on those regions where they did well and skip discussing their failures.

The two parties likely to be the most disappointed are United Russia and the Communists. The "party of power" lost its sole claim to that title, and although its chief competitors offer no real policy alternatives, there has been a radical change in the mathematical balance.

The Communists' successes in some regions actually underscore their troubles. The party's loyal electorate typically delivers a strong showing in elections where turnout is low. But the Communist Party's advantage disappears as more voters turn out for federal elections, and it continues to sink toward the 7 percent mark.

In Siberia, where the Communists still have a solid grip on second place, population density is lower than in European Russia, where the party is witnessing a decline. The Siberian Communists have largely been successful in spite of the Moscow leadership, whose policy line it usually doesn't follow.

A Just Russia looks like the only party with any reason to open the bubbly, but with nine months to go until the big vote, it is still too early to start celebrating.

Boris Kagarlitsky is the director of the Institute of Globalization Studies.