Russian opposition take inspiration from Arab Spring

Party leader promises protesters will flood the streets if elections are not seen to be fair


Frustrated opponents of Russia's ruling party could take to the streets after parliamentary elections next month if they believe the results have been rigged, in what could become a nightmare scenario for Prime Minister – and likely third-term President – Vladimir Putin.

Sergei Mironov, who heads the Just Russia party, said yesterday that he was coordinating plans with other opposition parties to post their own election monitors at polling stations across the country, and if there was a big discrepancy between their exit polls and the official result, then "we will bring our people out on to the streets". Just Russia, which presents its platform as modelled on European-style social democracy, is vying for third place in the opinion polls with the far-right populist party of Vladimir Zhirinovsky.

Four years ago, as a new party, it won almost eight per cent of the vote, and currently has 38 MPs. The Communist Party came a poor second to United Russia, the party of Mr Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev. Mr Mironov is banking on a significant improvement in the elections on 4 December, claiming that the party's own polls give Just Russia as much as 20 per cent or more.

He was speaking to members of the Valdai group of international Russia specialists in Moscow yesterday. Ever since Ukraine's Orange revolution in 2004, which followed a disputed election, the Kremlin has been apprehensive about people power making itself felt in Russia. But the challenges to entrenched rulers across the Arab world this year have made the country's leaders newly nervous, with debates raging in Russia's energetic blogosphere about how far the experience of Tunisia and Egypt, is applicable to Russia.

United Russia took 64 per cent of the vote at parliamentary elections four years ago, which gave the party a two-thirds majority in the Duma – sufficient to approve constitutional amendments. Its popularity held up reasonably well until this year, when it started to fall – in some places precipitously.

In local elections held earlier this year in 14 regions, many of its majorities were slashed, and its 58 per cent standing in recent national opinion polls is widely regarded as optimistic.

The possibility that its support could slump further – because of stagnating living standards and growing distrust of the political establishment generally – worries the Kremlin not just because a high number of losses would be seen as a humiliation, but because the parliamentary elections come only three months before the presidential election in March.

These are early days. The campaign went into top gear only this week, with the appearance of red, white and blue posters on all main streets, and nightly election 'debates' – by which is meant one-on-one slanging matches between an interviewer and party leaders on Channel 1 television in the late evening.

First up, on Monday, was the old warhorse, Mr Zhirinovsky – a relic of the last years of the Soviet Union – who worked himself up into a lather about low pay, social inequity, the humiliating collapse of the Soviet Union, and "job-stealing migrants", especially migrants from the former Soviet republics.

But the main problem facing the governing party is probably less Mr Zhirinovsky – or his party's rival for third place, Just Russia, but the pervasive cynicism among voters. Pollsters warn that even if both sets of coming elections – for the Duma and the presidency – were irreproachably free and fair, people may still believe they have been fixed, leaving the winners without a democratic mandate.

Suggested Topics
peoplePerformer had recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
The comedian, 42, made the controversial comment following the athlete’s sentencing to five years for the culpable homicide of Reeva Steenkamp on Tuesday
Life and Style
Could you tell the difference between this and an organic alternative?
food + drink

Culinary experts in The Netherlands thought it was 'fresh' and 'tasty'

ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Today's Liverpool Echo back page
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling will not be releasing a 'romance' novel anytime soon
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to US
Life and Style

Of all the computers Apple has ever made there’s only one that Steve Jobs had to sell his car to finance

Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
One of the 'princesses' in the video
videoYouTube reinstates sweary video after takedown for 'violating terms'
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
Arts and Entertainment

Marvel has released first teaser trailer week early after it leaked online

Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teaching Assistant

£70 - £85 per day: Randstad Education Group: SEN Teaching Assistants needed in...

Year 4 Teacher required for 2 terms

£21500 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education ar...

Accounts Assistant - Sales Ledger, Sage Line 50 - St Albans

£20000 - £22000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A highly successful and w...

EBD Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a quailed Teacher ...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?