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‘There are no others’ Sources say Dmitry Medvedev may head United Russia’s party list for the 2021 State Duma elections

Source: Meduza
Scanpix / LETA

As this fall’s State Duma elections draw nearer, sources close to Putin’s administration and the United Russia leadership are saying that Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s former president and prime minister, is set to head the ruling party’s list. Though Medvedev has been United Russia’s leading candidate in past parliamentary elections, his current political ratings are quite low. Be that as it may, sources told Meduza that after weighing a number of scenarios, the “party of power” concluded that Medvedev was the only viable option. At the same time, United Russia representatives, including Medvedev himself, have declined to comment on whether or not he’ll be number one of the party’s list — apparently, this question will be resolved at the United Russia congress in Moscow on June 19.

Two sources close to the presidential administration told Meduza that United Russia’s list for the fall 2021 State Duma elections will be headed by none other than the party of power’s chairman, Dmitry Medvedev. This news about the former Russian president and prime minister was confirmed by another source close to the United Russia leadership. Meduza’s sources called this a “basic” and “key” scenario. “Currently, there are no others,” one of them added.

Dmitry Medvedev headed United Russia’s list during the last parliamentary election in 2016 — the ruling party won 54.2 percent of the vote and voter turnout was 47.9 percent. At the time, Medvedev was still Russia’s Prime Minister. And he was the only candidate in the “federal” section of United Russia’s party list, though by law this part can include up to ten people (all other candidates were listed in the “regional” section). 

Dmitry Medvedev was dismissed from the post of prime minister along with his cabinet in January 2020. He’s now the Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Security Council and, in all likelihood, will be the number one in the “federal” group, which is set to include several candidates; the exact number of people and who they will be is still being discussed. Under the current laws, this section of the party list can include up to 15 candidates. 

“Medvedev has been very active lately: he makes phone calls on party matters — and not just on party matters. Even in the winter, high-status players couldn’t afford not to consult him on some issues, and now everything is with respect: ‘We need to discuss with Dmitry Anatolyevich’,” said a Meduza source close to the cabinet. 

Earlier, the Kremlin and United Russia worked out several scenarios for the formation of party lists for the elections to the State Duma. Medvedev could have appeared as the only candidate in the “federal” part of the ruling party’s list once again. Or President Vladimir Putin could have been the sole number one. There was also a version in which current Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin headed the party list, Meduza’s sources said. 

“The list with Mishustin had its own logic — prime ministers have headed the United Russia list for several [election] cycles already; though they were also party chairmen. The prime minister’s ratings are high, so this would only add points to United Russia,” a source close to the presidential administration told Meduza. 

But this scenario also had a “constraining factor,” the source added: the combination of the post of prime minister, high popularity, and the public role of leader of the United Russia party list would automatically point to Mishustin being the president’s successor, and this decision “hasn’t been made yet.”

Another option was a “broad lineup” for the federal portion of the party list, headed by the Secretary of United Russia’s General Council, Andrey Turchak. However, this scenario was quickly dropped because Turchak is a little-known figure. 

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At the same time, Dmitry Medvedev’s ratings aren’t high. According to polling conducted by the independent Levada Center in May (these survey results have yet to be published), 33 percent of respondents named Vladimir Putin as a trusted politician and 11 percent named Mikhail Mishustin. Only 2 percent of those surveyed said Dmitry Medvedev’s name.

VTsIOM — the state-owned Russian Public Opinion Research Center — uses a different survey method: rather than having the respondents name a trusted political figure, they give them the name of a politician and ask if they trust them or not. This approach shows that as of May 31, 2021, 66.4 percent of Russians trust Putin and 51.4 percent trust Mishustin. Meanwhile, Medvedev’s trust rating is 23.3 percent, which is lower than the level of trust in the leaders of other parliamentary parties (the Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR), the Communist Party (KPRF), and A Just Russia). Moreover, according to VTsIOM’s results, 66.6 percent of those surveyed don’t trust Medvedev (by comparison, Mishustin’s anti-rating is 31.3 percent and Putin’s is 28.9 percent). 

Asked about the possibility of Dmitry Medvedev running in the State Duma elections as the head of United Russia’s list, his aide Oleg Osipov redirected this question to the ruling party itself.

“I’m hearing this from you, I don’t know about it,” the Deputy Secretary of United Russia’s General Council, State Duma lawmaker Alexander Kinshtein, told Meduza’s correspondent in response to the same question. In turn, United Russia’s head spokesman Dmitry Minenko told Meduza, “I wouldn’t want to comment on this at all, all decisions will be made by the [party] congress.”

Dmitry Medvedev was asked the same question in a recent interview with the Russian business newspaper Kommersant. “The [party] congress will answer this question. We will make sure the party receives the largest number of votes,” he replied. The United Russia congress is set to take place in Moscow on June 19.

According to an April survey from the Levada Center, only 15 percent of Muscovites are ready to vote for United Russia. However, among those who intend to cast a ballot in the upcoming State Duma election, 28 percent intend to vote for the ruling party. 

VTsIOM’s survey shows that as of May 31, United Russia’s countrywide rating was 29.7 percent. This is higher than the ratings of the KPRF (13.2 percent), LDPR (10.2 percent), and A Just Russia (7.3 percent). Other parties have yet to overcome the 5 percent threshold required to enter the State Duma. 

Be that as it may, RBC previously reported that the presidential administration had assigned the regional authorities the task of securing 45 percent of the votes for United Russia in this fall’s State Duma elections. 

The ruling party’s primaries took place from May 24–30 — they were mainly conducted online with the help of the government services portal Gosuslugi. As Meduza reported previously, state employees were forced to take part in the United Russia primaries. In addition, sources close to the presidential administration and the United Russia leadership told Meduza that regional administrations were expected to ensure a turnout of 10–15 percent of the total number of voters. 

In the end, according to official data, 10 percent of Russian voters did in fact vote in the United Russia primaries. In Moscow, this figure was around 6 percent. However, independent analyst Sergey Shpilkin, who studies elections in Russia, speculated that “the votes were ‘penciled in’ in Moscow’s electronic voting system directly, without being linked to the accounts of any real users.”

There was also discussion on social media about Gosuslugi users observing suspicious activity involving their profiles. In particular, journalist Anna Borodina discovered her account had been accessed by someone from United Russia’s Personal Data Processing Center. Russia’s Digital Development Ministry later confirmed that a number of Gosuslugi user accounts were hacked during the ruling party’s primaries. 

Story by Andrey Pertsev and Svetlana Reiter

Translation by Eilish Hart

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