How To Steal an Election, Legitimately

There is a great article today in the New York Times about the upcoming elections in Russia. The elections are not likely to be fair but there will be no vote stealing going on on election day either. As the Times, notes:

Strict new election rules adopted under Mr. Putin, combined with the Kremlin’s dominance over the news media and government agencies, are expected to propel the party that he created, United Russia, to a parliamentary majority even more overwhelming than its current one.

The system is so arrayed against all other parties that even some Putin allies have acknowledged that it harks back to the politics of the old days. Sergei M. Mironov, a staunch Putin supporter and the chairman of the upper house of Parliament, suggested recently that United Russia seemed to have been modeled on a certain forerunner.

In the parliamentary election on Dec. 2, Russians will vote only for parties, not for candidates. What is more, parties now need 7 percent of the national vote to gain seats in Parliament, up from 5 percent. They also need to submit proof that they have at least 50,000 members to be recognized as official parties, up from 10,000.

It now seems possible that United Russia’s advantages are so great that it will be the only party to surpass 7 percent. In that case, the Constitution requires at least one other party in Parliament, so some token seats will be allocated to the second most popular one.

The Russian experience strongly suggests that the concerns about election day can override our concerns about other aspects of the election, such as whether the campaign is fair, the voter registration process is fair, and the drawing of districts is fair.