Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The importance of an election that doesn't matter

Joshua Tucker, who teaches political science at New York University offers these thoughts about what is important about the upcoming election in Russia.

The original Monkey Cage blog post is full of links to expository web pages.

Pre-Election Report: 2012 Russian Presidential Elections
Given my research interests in Russian politics, I will offer my own pre-election report on the March 4, 2012 first round of the Russian presidential elections. I will, however, do so in the time-honored Monkey Cage fashion of a Q&A with myself…

Q: Russia is holding a presidential election on March 4, 2012. Will this be like most presidential elections in democracies, in that it will function as a vote that will be held to determine who will be Russia’s next president?

A: No. First of all, the winner of the election is not going to be determined by the vote on March 4. The winner of the election was determined in September, when the only real uncertainty about who would win the election was resolved. That was when the current president of Russia, Dmitri Medvedev, decided to step aside so that the previous president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, could run for president in 2012…

Q: So what’s the most important take-away point for the future of Russian politics from this election?

A: Unlike a regular election – where the most important result is who wins – in this election the most important result will be what happens to the incipient protest movement in Moscow. If the election takes the wind out of the sails of the movement, then Russia can largely expect more of the same. If the protests continue and increase in size, then changes are likely ahead for Russian politics. While the presidential election is not going to determine who becomes the next president – this has already been determined – factors such as whether Putin wins in the first round, how he does in Moscow, and how people interpret the “true” popularity of Putin may have an important role in determining the future of the protest movements.

And in this way, the coming Russian presidential elections, which will have no impact on who becomes Russia’s next president are, somewhat ironically, quite important for Russia’s next president.

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