Foreign Administrative Resource. Why Russia Needs State Duma Elections in Occupied Donbas

ORDLO occupied Donbas

Residents of the occupied Donbas, who received Russian passports, will be able to vote in the September elections to the State Duma of the Russian Federation. A corresponding statement was made by Secretary of the General Council of Russia’s ruling party “United Russia” Andrei Turchak. This intention is a vivid demonstration of what the self-proclaimed republics of “LPR” and “DPR” are for Moscow. In South Ossetia and Abkhazia, cut off from Georgia, and Moldova’s unrecognised Transnistria, the scheme of involving local people in the all-Russian elections has been practiced more than once. Polling stations are organised there, each an all-Russian expression of will. Russian officials do not conceal: they do not just arrange places for the “peacekeeping” contingents stationed there but also involve all local residents with Russian passports in voting.

A Russian passport is a kind of a “lucky ticket” in unrecognised, impoverished “republics” such as Abkhazia or Transnistria being, unlike local fake documents, a full-fledged identity card and allowing legal travel to Russia, where living standards are significantly higher compared to these illegal formations. The price for this is participation in the Russian elections, support for the current Kremlin policy.

Now, Moscow tries to extend this practice to certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The mass issuance of Russian passports continues in the occupied Donbas, guaranteeing not only rights but also civic duties. According to the Eastern Human Rights Group, 700,000 people in these territories have already received Russian passports. About 70% of them will be able to vote because they have the necessary individual insurance account number (SNILS in Russian). Human rights activists say that turnout at the State Duma elections in the occupied areas of Donbas is unlikely to exceed 50%. However, the figure is not so significant for totalitarian regimes, which were de facto established in “LPR” and “DPR”: local officials will always manage to falsify the result necessary for Moscow.

Russia’s electoral profit from the vote in the occupied Donbas is, at first glance, insignificant: here “United Russia” can (on an all-Russian scale) add about 0.3% of votes to its result. However, in the aggregate with other self-proclaimed republics, the figure will be bigger. The task of these electoral peripheries is to compensate to the extent possible for the low turnout or protest voting in different regions of the Russian Federation. It is a kind of small but faultless administrative resource.

Voting in the certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions is not the only echo of the war in Donbas in the Russian elections. In Russia itself, former militant leaders such as Alexander Borodai and Zakhar Prilepin are running for the State Duma. They come from different political forces but work for the same electorate: far right-chauvinist, focused on the revival of the empire.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine reacted to the intentions to hold Russian elections in Donbas at the first preparatory stages (when “United Russia” representatives visited the occupied areas of Donbas): “Such actions by the Russian side undermine the political-diplomatic settlement of the Russian-Ukrainian armed conflict, run counter to Russian commitments under the Minsk Agreements and the agreements reached by the leaders of the Normandy format. We call on the citizens of Ukraine living in the temporarily occupied territories of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions not to take part in illegal Russian plebiscites,” reads the statement by the Ministry.

Stepan Nazarenko

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