Officials in Russia’s capital expect turnout in next month’s City Duma elections to reach 30 percent, thanks in part to a wave of “protest voting,” sources close to the Moscow Mayor’s Office tell the newspaper Vedomosti.
City officials will also rely on traditional methods to boost turnout, according to Vedomosti. For example, staff at social-services centers will encourage people to vote in the elections. On the other hand, the newspaper’s sources say Deputy Mayor Anastasia Rakova, who supervises the city’s budget, “apparently isn’t yet prepared to give strict orders requiring state employees to participate in elections.”
There was no consensus among the sociologists and political scientists who spoke to Vedomosti about what effect protest voting might have on the elections’ overall turnout.
In the last Moscow City Duma elections, held in September 2014, turnout reached 21.04 percent. In November 2018, anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny proposed an initiative to coordinate protest voting in Russia’s September 2019 local elections. Dubbed “Smart Vote,” the new system identifies and endorses whichever challenger supposedly has the best chance of defeating the candidate supported by United Russia in any particular race.
Since mid-July, Moscow has witnessed weekly protests against local election officials’ refusal to register dozens of independent candidates for September’s City Duma races. The authorities argue that the oppositionists failed to collect the necessary number of endorsements, while protesters insist that legitimate signatures were invalidated for political reasons.