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Here’s what to expect from Russia’s upcoming Parliamentary elections

In an election defined by Russia’s ongoing confrontation with the West, national patriotic parties are expected to dominate Russia’s electoral landscape.




With much of the world focused on the US Presidential election, few have been speaking about the election for the State Duma of the Russian Federation which takes place in September of this year.

This election is critical insofar as it serves as a referendum on the current state of Russian politics which have changed a great deal since the last Duma election in 2011.

Since 2011, Russia has seen its presence in international affairs expand. Russia’s international voice is heard louder than it was in 2011 and Russia’s ability to influence world events has been greatly magnified. In 2011 the uneasy and functionally inaccurate borders of post-Soviet Ukraine was an issue reserved for academic circles and those who have long taken a passion in a more just settlement to post-Soviet border issues, but it was not a mainstay of debate in Russia nor was it a dot on the radar in international discourse.

This of course has all changed dramatically and now politicians in the west who just three years ago didn’t know if Crimea was a seafood dish, the new Volkswagen model or a historically Russian peninsula of great cultural importance, now talk about it endlessly. 

Likewise, in 2011 Syria was a unified country.  However shortly thereafter tensions exploded which have resulted in a once small Al-Qaeda affiliate proclaiming itself the Islamic State, and ruling much of Syria and Iraq. Russia is now directly involved in the war in Syria after the government of Syria asked for assistance in fighting theocratic terrorism.

Likewise, whereas in 2011 Turkey still had vague dreams of embracing the ‘European dream’, now Turkey has forged closer ties with Russia, after of course committing both a crime and a blunder in shooting down a Russian fighter jet, which brought Russo-Turkish relations to their lowest point in decades.

Looming over all these conflicts is the the rise of the BRICS bloc, and in particular Russia’s ever closer relationship with China, which is challenging the unipolar world which most in 2011 still took for granted as a sustained inevitability.

Consequently, Russian voters have much more to vote for than they had in the last election.

Opinion polls show that none of the eligible parties currently without representation in the Duma will make it into the Duma despite the lowering of the thresholds which took place in 2012. Instead, it is the number of votes/seats received by parties that already are in the Duma which is the key issue in the election.

The governing party, United Russia, look set once again to come out on top. The increased popularity of Vladimir Putin, Russia’s President, who has the official endorsement of United Russia, will likely be reflected in the election in a higher vote for United Russia.  This despite corruption scandals and United Russia’s behaviour during certain regional elections.

The Communist Party looks set to remain in second place.  However one should look out for the changing demographics of the Communist vote. Traditionally Gennady Zyuganov’s Communists have attracted votes from older generations with nostalgic appeals to the USSR. However, due to Russia’s decreased dependence on western imports due to the sanctions and the oil price fall, long time Communist calls to be more economically self-reliant and to focus on trade with partners who have respected Russia’s traditional global role, will probably now be taken more seriously by younger voters who previously may not have understood frequent Communist warnings about the need to be less dependent on the West. There is therefore a good chance that the Communist vote will increase as compared with 2011 and that the Communists will get a larger share of the votes cast by younger people.

The race for the third party in the Duma is the most interesting. It’s a two horse race between A Just Russia and the LDPR.

The LDPR is likely to capture third place for a variety of reasons. The LDPR has made foreign affairs and finding a just settlement for Russians living in the “near abroad” who have been deprived since 1991 of their basic civil and human rights a central pillar of their policy.  LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky has also made Russian relations with the Arab World, Asia, Iran and Turkey a central theme of his speeches and writings.

Since 2011 these matters have gone from peripheral issues to ones at the heart of Russia’s international relations.  Just as the Communists accurately predicted the importance of economic self-reliance, so the LDPR correctly predicted the potential for volatility and violence in Ukraine, the importance of good relations with Turkey, the need for Russia to take an independent position from the West in respect of relations with Arab counties, and the potential for trade with Iran.

For all of these reasons the LDPR’s policies seem more relevant than those of A Just Russia which more or less acts as the socialist conscience of United Russia, supporting many of their programmes whilst arguing for a more socially oriented element in legislation.

Lastly, the LDPR may benefit from the fact that charisma and flamboyance seem to be back in fashion globally. From Rodrigo Duterte in Philippines to Boris Johnson in Britain and to Donald Trump in America, being outspoken is now being taken seriously. Some in Russia tend to fear that Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s personal characteristics make him a less than desirable figure to present on the world’s stage.  However with other even more outspoken leaders appearing in important global positions, this can no longer be the case. It just so happens that Zhirinovsky is highly educated in world history and foreign affairs, far more so than certain other politicians in other countries who are similarly prone to dramatic rhetoric.

As for smaller parties like PARNAS and Yabloko, the popularity of such groups is negligible in Russia and very few commentators believe they will secure enough votes to receive any seats in the Duma.

All in all Russia’s election like previous ones will be an interesting exercise in the democracy many in the west assume Russia does not have.

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Ukraine’s President Says “High” Threat Of Russian Invasion, Urges NATO Entry In Next 5 Years

Poroshenko is trying desperately to hold on to power, even if it means provoking Russia.



Via Zerohedge

Perhaps still seeking to justify imposing martial law over broad swathes of his country, and attempting to keep international pressure and media focus on a narrative of “Russian aggression,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko denounced what he called the high “threat of Russian invasion” during a press conference on Sunday, according to Bloomberg.

Though what some analysts expected would be a rapid flair up of tit-for-tat incidents following the late November Kerch Strait seizure of three Ukrainian vessels and their crew by the Russian Navy has gone somewhat quiet, with no further major incident to follow, Poroshenko has continued to signal to the West that Russia could invade at any moment.

“The lion’s share of Russian troops remain” along the Russian border with Ukraine, Poroshenko told journalists at a press conference in the capital, Kiev. “Unfortunately, less than 10 percent were withdrawn,” he said, and added: “As of now, the threat of Russian troops invading remains. We have to be ready for this, we won’t allow a repeat of 2014.”

Poroshenko, who declared martial law on Nov. 26, citing at the time possible imminent “full-scale war with Russia” and Russian tank and troop build-up, on Sunday noted that he will end martial law on Dec. 26 and the temporarily suspended presidential campaign will kick off should there be no Russian invasion. He also previously banned all Russian males ages 16-60 from entering Ukraine as part of implementation of 30 days of martial law over ten provinces, though it’s unclear if this policy will be rescinded.

During his remarks, the Ukrainian president said his country should push to join NATO and the EU within the next five years, per Bloomberg:

While declining to announce whether he will seek a second term in the office, Poroshenko said that Ukraine should achieve peace, overcome the consequences of its economic crisis and to meet criteria to join the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization during next five years.

But concerning both his retaining power and his ongoing “threat exaggeration” — there’s even widespread domestic acknowledgement that the two are clearly linked.

According to The Globe and Mail:

While Mr. Poroshenko’s domestic rivals accuse him of exaggerating the threat in order to boost his own flagging political fortunes — polls suggest Mr. Poroshenko is on track to lose his job in a March election — military experts say there are reasons to take the Ukrainian president’s warning seriously.

As we observed previously, while European officials have urged both sides to exercise restraint, the incident shows just how easily Russia and the West could be drawn into a military conflict over Ukraine.

Certainly Poroshenko’s words appear designed to telegraph just such an outcome, which would keep him in power as a war-time president, hasten more and massive western military support and aid, and quicken his country’s entry into NATO — the latter which is already treating Ukraine as a de facto strategic outpost.

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The Stampede of the Gadarene Swine: US Leaders Allowing Ukraine to Pull Them into Global War

There is no way in any sane assessment that the Ukrainian forces – and certainly not the neo-Nazi militias recruited in the west of the country to terrorize the east – can be regarded as “brothers” of the US armed forces.



Authored by Martin Sieff via The Strategic Culture Foundation:

George Friedrich Wilhelm Hegel was right – Again: The only thing the human race learns from history is that it learns nothing from history.

In 1914,the British Empire, largest in human history and one of the longest-lasting, charged into World War I to defend “gallant little Belgium” whose King Leopold over the previous 30 years had carried out one of the longest, largest genocides of all time, killing 10 million people in the Congo.

Germany, wealthiest, most prosperous nation in Europe, blundered into the same needless war when feckless Kaiser Wilhelm II causally gave sweeping approval to Austria-Hungary to annihilate the tiny nation of Serbia. Millions of brave and idealistic Russians eagerly volunteered to fight in the war to protect “gallant little Serbia.” Most of them died too. There is no record that any of the Serbian leaders after the war visited any of their mass graves.

Now it is the United States’ turn.

Since the end of the Cold War US policymakers, presidents and their congresses have carried out virtually every stupidity and folly imaginable for any major power. The only one they have so far avoided has been the danger of stumbling into a full scale world war.

However, now, with the escalating and increasingly hysterical US support for the shady and risk-taking junta in Kiev, President Donald Trump risks committing that most dire and unforgivable of all horrors.

Trump today is no more than putty in the hands of his national security adviser John Bolton, one of the masterminds of the catastrophe that was the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Bolton is just like his hero Winston Churchill a century ago during World War I. He always gets his way, always gets the wars and battles he wants and bungles them embarrassingly every time. And like the young Churchill, Bolton never learns, never mellows and he never changes. It is always everybody else’s fault.

Churchill finally did grow and learn. His famous activities of the 1930s were not meant to start a new world war with Germany under the far worse leadership of Adolf Hitler: He wanted to avert such a war.

The invaluable diaries of Ivan Maisky, the Soviet Union’s ambassador to Britain through the 1930s make clear that even then Churchill was eager – alone in the British ruling classes – to establish a serious close defensive alliance with Josef Stalin and the Soviet Union. He recognized that would be the only way to box in Hitler and prevent a global catastrophe.

But Bolton has not learned from his hero – Quite the reverse. He is now impelling Trump on a reckless course of empowering the dangerous adventurers who with US support have seized Ukraine and have spent the past nearly five years wrecking it.

Even worse, the same kind of absurd sentimentalizing of an obscure, tiny or unstable ally that doomed Britain, Russia and Germany to unimaginable suffering and loss in 1914 now permeates US decision-makers, strategists and their pontificating pundits about Ukraine. On March 1, 2016, US General Philip Breedlove, then NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) memorably referred to “our Ukrainian brothers and sisters” in a Pentagon press briefing

There is no way in any sane assessment that the ramshackle Ukrainian forces – and certainly not the neo-Nazi militias recruited in the west of the country to terrorize the east – can be regarded as “brothers” of the US armed forces. The US and Soviet troops who met on the River Elbe on April 25, 1945 after advancing a combined more than 2,000 miles to liberate Europe from the darkest tyranny in its history could truly be called “brothers.”

However, the US military today and the Ukrainian forces they are being drawn in to protect certainly are not “brothers and sisters.” No poll has been taken since then across the United States, as far as I am aware as to whether the American people would be willing to risk full-scale nuclear war to defend a government in Ukraine that is demonstrably unpopular among its own people.

Trump was elected president in November 2016 precisely because he was the only candidate in that shock election who unambiguously called for the United States to end its 70-year fixation with getting pulled into one endless war and confrontation after another around the world. It would be the darkest of ironies if instead he took America into its last and most catastrophic conflict – a nuclear confrontation from which there could be no recovery, no escape and no survival.

Britain, Russia and Germany in 1914 were all destroyed by the deliberate plotting and manipulations of vastly smaller or weaker allies run by psychopathic gamblers. The rulers of Kiev today, in their entirely reckless disregard for the dangers of global thermonuclear war clearly fit into that category.

Policymakers in Moscow recognize this dire reality. Their counterparts in Washington remain amazingly totally blind to it. Their only idea of strategy is the suicidal stampede of the Gadarene Swine in the Gospels off the end of a cliff. And they are taking the entire human race with them.

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FBI, CIA Told WaPo They Doubted Key Allegation In Steele Dossier

The WaPo sent reporters to every hotel in Prague, trying to figure out if Cohen was ever there, and came away empty.



Via Zerohedge

FBI and CIA sources told a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter that they didn’t believe a key claim contained in the “Steele Dossier,” the document the Obama FBI relied on to obtain a surveillance warrant on a member of the Trump campaign.

The Post‘s Greg Miller told an audience at an October event that the FBI and CIA did not believe that former longtime Trump attorney Michael Cohen visited Prague during the 2016 election to pay off Russia-linked hackers who stole emails from key Democrats, reports the Daily Caller‘s Chuck Ross.

“We’ve talked to sources at the FBI and the CIA and elsewhere — they don’t believe that ever happened,” said Miller during the October event which aired Saturday on C-SPAN.

We literally spent weeks and months trying to run down… there’s an assertion in there that Michael Cohen went to Prague to settle payments that were needed at the end of the campaign. We sent reporters to every hotel in Prague, to all over the place trying to – just to try to figure out if he was ever there, and came away empty. -Greg Miller

Ross notes that WaPo somehow failed to report this information, nor did Miller include this tidbit of narrative-killing information in his recent book, “The Apprentice: Trump, Russia, and the Subversion of American Democracy.”

Miller also admits that the dossier’s broad claims are more closely aligned with reality, but that the document breaks down once you focus on individual claims.

Steele, using Kremlin sources, claimed in his dossier that Cohen and three associates went to Prague in August 2016 to meet with Kremlin officials for the purpose of discussing “deniable cash payments” made in secret so as to cover up “Moscow’s secret liaison with the TRUMP team.”

Cohen’s alleged Prague visit captured attention largely because the former Trump fixer has vehemently denied it, and also because it would seem to be one of the easier claims in Steele’s 35-page report to validate or invalidate.

Debate over the salacious document was reignited when McClatchy reported April 15 that special counsel Robert Mueller had evidence Cohen visited Prague. No other news outlets have verified the reporting, and Cohen denied it at the time.

Cohen last denied the dossier’s allegations in late June, a period of time when he was gearing up to cooperate with prosecutors against President Donald Trump. Cohen served as a cooperating witness for prosecutors in both New York and the special counsel’s office. –Daily Caller

Cohen’s attorney and longtime Clinton pal Lanny Davis vehemently denied on August 22, one day after Cohen pleaded guilty in his New York case – that Cohen had never been to Prague, telling Bloomberg “Thirteen references to Mr. Cohen are false in the dossier, but he has never been to Prague in his life.”

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