Rigorous new electoral laws are helping the Russian state reduce opposition to the Vladimir Putin's ruling party, and critics say that such electoral laws merely represent part of a Kremlin campaign to crack down on dissent. Already two political parties have been suspended by the state. First the Nationalist Bolshevik Party was suspended. And the Guardian now reports that 'Russia's supreme court announced that it had liquidated the small Republican Party, claiming that it had violated electoral law by having too few members'. The Kremlin's new electoral law requires parties to have at least 50,000 members, which the Republican Party don't (although they have MP in the Duma).
Thanks to electoral laws and other non-competitive practices, there is now very little opposition to the Government. According to the Guardian, 'In theory, the opposition includes Russia's Communist party and the far-right Liberal Democratic party. In reality, they rarely if ever voice opposition to the Kremlin, observers point out.' In another recent article - Win, win - a journalist visits a Russian city for their elections and initially finds that there is seemingly 'a genuine choice between two different political parties', only to discover that both United Russia and Just Russia are pro-Kremlin, and voters have no real choice. The writer agrees with sceptics who complain that the state have invented the parties 'merely to take away votes from Russia's genuine opposition parties'.
Undoubtedly related to the Kremlin's unrivaled rule, the gap between rich and poor is still surging, alongside the growing prosperity. As reported here recently, Russia now has 53 billionaires, yet 20% of Russians are below the poverty line, and the new oil and gas wealth refuses to trickle down to the poor.