The Putin administration has reportedly acknowledged, at two private events, the mistakes made ahead of Moscow’s City Duma elections in September. Sources told the newspaper Vedomosti about two events that were closed to the public: a roundtable organized by the state pollster VTsIOM that included Putin staffers, and a seminar held by the administration itself for the political consultants who worked on regional elections.
At these events, experts determined that one of the Kremlin’s biggest mistakes was the weak mobilization of retired persons, who are one of the authorities’ core support groups. “For the first time, they were not among the active electorate. They were discouraged by the protests and didn’t know what to make of them, or how to vote,” a source who attended the latter event told Vedomosti.
Experts also determined that it was a mistake for United Russia’s candidates to run as independents — an approach that was ostensibly meant to prove candidates’ autonomous popularity, while effectively allowing politicians to hide their ties to the “party of power.” The assortment of candidates nominated by the authorities, moreover, was also too weak to mobilize voters, experts decided.
After reviewing the Moscow City Duma election results, one event participant told Vedomosti, the presidential administration has decided that it needs to exert greater control over election campaigns in the capital, for example, during the 2021 State Duma race. Sources told Vedomosti that the Putin administration took on an active role in Moscow's September elections only after Deputy Mayor Natalia Sergunina’s handling led to the largest anti-government protests in more than seven years.
The Moscow City Duma elections took place on September 8, after weeks of mass demonstrations against election officials’ refusal to register several independent candidates.
Technically speaking, not a single United Russia candidate ran for office in Moscow’s September elections, though many candidates with the authorities’ support nevertheless represented the party. In the end, 25 independents won seats in the city legislature. Another 13 went to the Communist Party; the liberal party Yabloko won four; and Just Russia took three. Many of the “parliamentary opposition” parties (not to be confused with the anti-Kremlin, “non-systemic” opposition) won in part because of endorsements from Alexey Navalny’s “Smart Vote” tactical voting project.