Intraregional Differences of Electoral Indices during the Elections in Russia in 1995-2018

A.E.Lyubarev

Abstract

The article attempts to analyze intraregional differences of electoral indices (voter turnout, voting outside the voting premises, voting by absentee ballots, taking the ballots away from the voting premises, invalid ballots, “none of the above” votes, voting for candidates or party lists) during the federal and regional elections in Russia. A research of the differences in some indices between the region itself and the capital has been conducted for the 1995-2018 federal elections, the 2003-2017 regional parliament elections, the 1995-2000, 2003-2005 and 2012-2017 head of region elections. The 2003-2018 federal and regional elections in nine regions representing all of the federal districts were investigated in more detail. For research purposes, these regions were divided into four territorial units: capital, cities, districts with towns and rural areas. It was revealed that a number of indices (voter turnout, voting outside the voting premises, voting for United Russia and its candidates, Agrarian Party of Russia and some outsider parties) tend to increase starting from the capital and towards the rural areas while other indices (voting by absentee ballots, taking the ballots away from the voting premises, “none of the above” votes, invalid ballots after abolishing the “none of the above” vote, voting for liberal and center-left parties) have the opposite tendency. In 1990s, CPRF and LDPR relied on the outlying rural areas. In the first half of 2000s, the results for both parties in capitals became higher than the average across the region. CPRF still maintains this trend while LDPR seems to be doing the opposite. At the same time, both parties get better results in medium-sized cities compared to both capital and rural areas.


Being a multinational country, Russian Federation has always displayed regional differences in election results quite vividly. However, a lot of research has been done in the field of transregional differences in election results [5; 17; 7]. The intraregional differences has not been studied in the same detailed manner, even though they paint a clearer picture. As R.F. Turovsky pointed out, the “vertical” split “central part of the country–outlying regions” is more noticeable then the “horizontal” splits between major territorial communities. The outlying regions in particular differ from regional capitals by being more conformist, and initially this conformity manifested more strongly in industrial non-capital towns (“industrial semi-peripheries”) than in rural areas [18]. This paper aims at studying the intraregional differences and their changes during those elections in Russia that have detailed electoral statistics starting from 1995.

1. The differences in electoral indices across the region and its center during federal elections

The differences between the results across the region and its center can be considered the most simple and obvious index. In fact, this index demonstrates the differences between the central part of the region and its periphery. Table 1 displays the data from the 1995-2018 elections – in what regions the index was higher across the region than in its center and vice versa. The indices used in this case were voter turnout (the proportion of voters that took part in the elections against the voters’ list), protest vote (the “none of the above” vote in 1995-2004 and the proportion of invalid ballots in 2007-2018) and voting for five groups of parties or candidates (see commentary to the table for explanation). To calculate the indices we used data provided by Merkator infographics company (for the 1995-2000 elections) [23] and data from the official site of Central Election Commission of Russia (for the 2003-2018 elections) [20].

Table 1. The differences in electoral indices between the region and its center during the 1995-2018 elections
Year Turnout Protest Current Adm. CPRF LDPR Center-left Liberals  
1995 76 / 4 22 / 58 10 / 70 72 / 8 63 / 17 6 / 74 1 / 79  
1996 (1st round) 66 / 14 35 / 45 9 / 71 77 / 3 69 / 11 26 / 54 6 / 74  
1999 71 / 8 3 / 76 67 /12 69 / 10 64 / 15 8 / 71 2 / 77  
2000 68 / 12 2 / 78 57 / 23 64 / 16 53 / 27 2 / 78  
2003 69 / 12 9 / 72 72 / 9 47 / 34 47 / 34 6 / 75 2 / 79  
2004 74 / 7 4 / 77 62 / 19 62 / 19 67 / 14 1 / 80 3 / 78  
2007 70 / 9 24 / 55 78 / 1 13 / 66 17 / 62 14 / 65 2 / 77  
2008 67 / 12 18 / 61 67 / 12 18 / 61 26 / 53 4 / 75  
2011 66 / 13 40 / 39 70 / 9  9 / 70 31 / 48 14 / 65 5 / 74  
2012 51 / 28 21 / 58 73 / 6 15 / 64 43 / 36 8 / 71 4 / 75  
2016 74 / 6 46 / 34 78 / 2 22 / 58 45 / 35 3 / 77 4 / 76  
2018 62 / 18 44 / 36 66 / 14 25 / 55 55 / 25 6 / 74 4 / 76  

Commentary:
1. The number to the left is the number of regions where the regional index was higher than the capital index. The number to the right is the number of regions where the regional index was lower than the capital index. Federal cities, Moscow and Leningrad Oblasts that do not have a capital were not included as regions. In 1995-2004, Agin-Buryat, Koryak, Ust-Orda Buryat and Evensk Autonomous Okrugs were not included either as it was difficult to find any data on the capital while in 1995-2000, Nenets Autonomous Okrug was not included; besides, in 1999 there were no elections held in the Chechen Republic.
2. Table contents. Protest: the “none of the above” vote (1995-2004), invalid ballots (2007-2018). Current Administration: Our Home – Russia political party (abbreviated as NDR) (1995), Unity (1999), United Russia (2003, 2007, 2011, 2016), B.N. Yeltsin (1996), V.V. Putin (2000, 2004, 2012, 2018), D.A. Medvedev (2008). CPRF: CPRF (1995, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2016), G.A. Zyuganov (1996, 2000, 2008, 2012), N.M. Kharitonov (2004), P.N. Grudinin (2018). LDPR: LDPR (1995, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2016), “Bloc of Zhirinovsky” (1999), V.V. Zhirinovsky (1996, 2000, 2008, 2012, 2018), О.А. Malyshkin (2004). Center-left: The Congress of Russian Communities (1995), Fatherland – All Russia (1999), Rodina (2003), A Just Russia (2007, 2011, 2016), A.I. Lebed (1996), S.Yu. Glaziyev (2004), S.M. Mironov (2012), S.N. Baburin (2018). Liberals: Yabloko (1995, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2016), G.A. Yavlinsky (1996, 2000, 2018), I.M. Khakamada (2004), A.V. Bogdanov (2008), M.D. Prokhorov (2012).

We can observe a persistent pattern on a number of indices. For example, the voter turnout during all federal elections was mostly higher on the periphery of the region: only in 2012 did the proportion of regions with a different correlation had reached 35% while it did not rise above 23% in the rest of the campaigns. On the contrary, the “none of the above” vote was more prevalent in capitals. But if in 1995 and in the first round of the 1996 presidential election this trend did not manifest as clearly, in 1996 it could already be observed that in 65 capitals out of 80 covered by the study there were more votes against the two candidates in the second round. In 1999-2004, the proportion of regions where the protest vote was higher on the periphery did not rise above 12%. The situation with invalid ballots in 2007-2018 is quite different: in this case, the correlation between the regions is close for the most part and during three campaigns, the proportion of invalid ballots was higher in capitals and the other three campaigns displayed higher numbers on the periphery.

Liberals (including a rather relative liberal A.V. Bogdanov) have the most stable situation concerning voting for candidates and parties. As a rule, their results were higher in the city center. Only six regions were exceptions in 1996, five in 2011 and no more than four in the rest of the campaigns. It seems reasonable to add the Democratic Choice of Russia – United Democrats bloc in 1995 (2 / 78), the Union of Right Forces bloc in 1999 г. (1 / 78), the Union of Right Forces political party in 2003 (3 / 78) and 2007 (3 / 76), Pravoe Delo in 2011 (7 / 72), People’s Freedom Party (PARNAS) (4 / 76) and Party of Growth (6 / 74) in 2016, K.A. Sobchak (2 / 78) and B.Yu. Titov (2 / 78) in 2018.

The parties and candidates that we have, for convenience (considering their organizational and participant continuity), grouped together as center-left (or “social-patriotic”) have similar results. Since the “urban” nature of liberal parties is quite obvious, such parties as the Congress of Russian Communities or the Rodina bloc do not typically gravitate towards the urban electorate. A. I. Lebed’s results in 1996 stand out a little bit, since the proportion of regions with best results on the periphery took up one third of the total number; for other parties, blocs and candidates it did not rise above 18%.

We have included the Fatherland – All Russia bloc into the same group. Its “urban” nature manifested quite clearly as well, with the exception of regions that at the time had it as the “party of power” (Bashkortostan, Mordovia, Tatarstan, two more republics and three oblasts around Moscow). Of the parties not represented in the table it is appropriate to add Party of Workers' Self-Government in 1995 (11 / 69) and Rodina in 2016 (8 / 72).

The metamorphoses of the results of the two parties that constantly participated in the elections (CPRF and LDPR) pose a more interesting example, along with the parties and candidates grouped under “federal government parties” (Our Home – Russia, Unity, United Russia, B.N. Yeltsin, V.V. Putin, D.A. Medvedev).

The Our Home – Russia movement and B.N. Yeltsin clearly gravitated towards the electorate of major cities. By 1999, however, the foothold of the “federal government party” had changed: the Unity bloc, United Russia, V.V. Putin and D.A. Medvedev had more support on the periphery.

CPRF underwent the opposite metamorphosis, but later. In 1995-2000, it was clearly an “peripheral” party. In 2003, the communists got the highest votes percentage in capitals of a significant number of regions (but still in less than a half). In 2004, CPRF nominated N.M. Kharitonov, an agrarian, who once again got the most votes on the periphery of most of the regions. Starting from 2007, CPRF has stable advantages in capitals.

Speaking about the radical communists, in 1995 and 1999 they were the “peripheral” group as well, with the “Communists – Labour Russia – For the Soviet Union” bloc having a 76 / 4 and 72 / 2 correlation respectively. In 2016, the Communists of Russia displayed the same trend (58 / 22), while M. A. Suraikin got the best results in capitals (28 / 52).

The changes for the Agrarian Party of Russia were not as pronounced, but still noticeable. In 1995, it had the best results across the periphery in all 80 regions under study. In 2003, the periphery was dominant as well (74 / 7). In 2007, the correlation was nearly equal.

Some mixed changes were observed in the data on LDPR. In 1995-2004, it was a “peripheral” party (the correlation became more or less equal only in 2003) while in 2007-2011 it transformed into an “urban” one. The “peripheral” trend came back in 2012-2016, although it was not as pronounced as in the 1990s. The year of 2018 saw V.V. Zhirinovsky as a strictly “peripheral” candidate.

The difference between the results in the region and the capital was quite sizeable in some isolated cases. For example, in 2003, the voter turnout in the Kabardino-Balkar Republic was 76.0%, and 51.6% in Nalchik (24.4 percentage point difference, p.p.); United Russia got 74.8% in the same region and 51.9% in Nalchik (22.9 p.p. difference). In 2011, the voter turnout in Tatarstan was 79.5% and 60.2% in Kazan (19.3 p.p. difference); United Russia got 52.2% in the Mari El Republic while in Yoshkar-Ola it got only 30.8% (21.4 p.p. difference); CPRF got 21.9% in Voronezh Oblast and 33.1% in Voronezh (11.2 p.p. difference). In 2016, the voter turnout in the Republic of Ingushetia was 81.4% while in Magas it was 52.0% (29.4 p.p. difference); Tatarstan and Kazan had 78.8% and 53.5% voter turnout respectively (25.3 p.p. difference). As for the difference in United Russia’s results, the biggest was observed in Voronezh Oblast (19.9 p.p.), Lipetsk Oblast (19.4 p.p.), Tambov Oblast (19.1 p.p.), Penza Oblast (18.8 p.p.) and Belgorod Oblast (18.0 p.p.).

It is worth noting that most of the time certain republics and autonomies acted as exceptions from the rule, even though some exceptions were observed among krais and oblasts. For example, in 1995, the Chechen Republic, Vladimir and Kemerovo Oblasts, Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug were such exceptions. In 2004, the exceptions were the Republic of Dagestan, the Republic of Ingushetia, the Komi Republic, the Sakha (Yakutia) Republic, the Republic of North Osetia-Alania, Kemerovo and Saratov Oblasts. In 2016, the exceptions were the Karachay-Cherkess Republic, the Republic of Karelia, the Komi Republic, the Republic of North Osetia-Alania, Stavropol Krai and Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug.

In 2007, only Dagestan was the exception in terms of voting for United Russia, while in 2016 only North Osetia and Stavropol Krai were the exceptions. In terms of voting for G. A. Zyuganov, the first round of the 1996 elections saw Ingushetia, the Kabardino-Balkar Republic and the Tyva Republic as the exceptions (meaning the candidate’s result was higher in the capital). In 2011, when CPRF’s results were substantially higher in capitals than on the periphery, Ingushetia and Kabardino-Balkar Republic were exceptions once again, along with Dagestan, Komi, the Chechen Republic, Stavropol Krai, Astrakhan Oblast, Samara Oblast and Tula Oblast. In terms of voting for Yabloko, only Ingushetia was the exception in 1995, Dagestan and Ingushetia in 1999 and 2003, Dagestan and the Chechen Republic in 2007, Dagestan, the Kabardino-Balkar Republic, the Komi Republic, North Osetia and the Chechen Republic in 2011.

In most cases the exceptions were likely connected with administrative influences on the results of the election [3: 231-235; 11: 706-712; 8: 1080-1082]. In some regions (Dagestan, Komi, Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug), however, the heterogeneous electorate and population centers with more “urban” attitudes than the capitals themselves could have been the reasons for the exceptions to appear.

2. The differences in electoral indices across the region and its center during regional parliament elections

There were 258 regional parliament election campaigns based on proportional and mixed representation between December 2003 and September 2017; in most regions, such elections were held thrice. To save time, we decided to decrease the number of analyzed campaigns to 138. The number includes previously analyzed election days of October 8 in 2006 [16: 140-142], March 11 in 2007 [15: 215-216], March 13 in 2011 [22: 259-260] and September 8 in 2013 [10: 222-223]. As for other campaigns, we mostly analyzed those whose summary charts on the official site for the Central Election Commission of Russia (the CEC of Russia) [20] contained data on territorial election commissions. The campaigns that were not included into the analysis were the regional campaigns of December 4, 2011 and September 18, 2016 that coincided with legislative elections as well as campaigns held in federal cities, Leningrad and Moscow Oblasts. It should be noted that his research does not consider the said campaigns at all.

─ 2003, December: Volgograd, Vologda, Ulyanovsk Oblasts;

─ 2004, March: the Karachay-Cherkess Republic, the Republic of Tatarstan, Altai Krai, Sverdlovsk Oblast, Yaroslavl Oblast;

─ 2004, October-December: the Republic of Khakassia; Arkhangelsk, Kaluga, Sakhalin, Chita Oblasts;

─ 2005, January-May: Amur, Vladimir, Magadan Oblasts, Nenets Autonomous Okrug;

─ 2005, October-December: the Chechen Republic; Ivanovo, Kostroma, Novosibirsk, Tver, Chelyabinsk Oblasts; Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug;

─ 2006, March: the Republic of Adygea, the Altai Republic, Orenburg Oblast, Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug;

─ 2006, October-December: the Republic of Karelia, the Tyva Republic, the Chuvash Republic, Perm Krai, Primorsky Krai; Astrakhan, Lipetsk, Novgorod, Sverdlovsk Oblasts; Jewish Autonomous Oblast;

─ 2007, March-April: the Republic of Dagestan, the Komi Republic, Krasnoyarsk Krai, Stavropol Krai; Vologda, Murmansk, Omsk, Oryol, Pskov, Samara, Tomsk, Tyumen Oblasts;

─ 2007, December: the Republic of Mordovia, the Udmurt Republic. Krasnodar Krai, Penza Oblast;

─ 2008, March: the Republic of Ingushetia, the Republic of Kalmykia, the Sakha (Yakutia) Republic, Altai Krai; Amur, Ivanovo, Sverdlovsk, Ulyanovsk, Yaroslavl Oblasts;

─ 2008, October: the Chechen Republic, Zabaykalsky Krai, Sakhalin Oblast;

─ 2009, March: the Kabardino-Balkar Republic, the Karachay-Cherkess Republic, the Republic of Tatarstan, the Republic of Khakassia; Arkhangelsk, Bryansk, Vladimir, Volgograd Oblasts; Nenets Autonomous Okrug;

─ 2009, October: Tula Oblast;

─ 2010, March: the Altai Republic, Khabarovsk Krai; Kaluga, Ryazan, Sverdlovsk Oblasts;

─ 2010, October: Kostroma, Magadan, Novosibirsk, Chelyabinsk Oblasts;

─ 2011, March: the Republic of Adygea, the Republic of Dagestan, the Komi Republic; Kaliningrad, Kirov, Nizhny Novgorod, Orenburg, Tambov, Tver Oblasts; Khanty-Mansi and Chukotka Autonomous Okrugs;

─ 2012, October: the Republic of North Osetia-Alania, the Udmurt Republic, Krasnodar Krai; Penza, Saratov, Sakhalin Oblasts;

─ 2013, September: the Republic of Bashkortostan, the Republic of Buryatiya, the Republic of Kalmykia, the Sakha (Yakutia) Republic, the Republic of Khakassia, Zabaykalsky Krai; Arkhangelsk, Vladimir, Ivanovo, Irkutsk, Kemerovo, Rostov, Smolensk, Ulyanovsk, Yaroslavl Oblast;

─ 2014, September: the Kabardino-Balkar Republic, the Karachay-Cherkess Republic, the Mari El Republic, the Republic of Tatarstan, the Tyva Republic, Khabarovsk Krai; Bryansk, Volgograd, Tula Oblasts;

─ 2015, September: the Komi Republic; Kaluga, Kostroma, Magadan, Novosibirsk, Chelyabinsk Oblasts;

─ 2017, September: the Republic of North Osetia-Alania, the Udmurt Republic, Krasnodar Krai; Penza, Sakhalin Oblasts.

In all of the campaigns above, we compared the results of the three parties – United Russia, CPRF and LDPR – in the region itself and its center. All three parties participated in the campaigns under analysis (except for CPRF in Chukotka AO in 2005).

The state of things for United Russia coincided with the one for this party and its candidates during the federal elections, which were analyzed in the previous section. In general, it had better results in the region rather than in the capital. The exceptions were the Republic of Dagestan (2007, 2011), the Republic of Ingushetia (2008), the Karachay-Cherkess Republic (2009), the Republic of North Osetia-Alania (2012, 2017), Krasnoyarsk Krai (2007), Bryansk Oblast (2014), Volgograd Oblast (2003), Ivanovo Oblast (2008), Novosibirsk Oblast (2005), Rostov Oblast (2013).

The surplus of the results in the capital over those in the region was mostly insignificant for United Russia. It reached its highest point in Ingushetia (7.3 p.p.). On the other hand, the surplus of the results in the region over those in the capital reached 23.1 p.p. in the Mari El Republic (2014), 20.6 p.p. in Ulyanovsk Oblast (2013), 20.5 p.p. in Penza Oblast (2012), 20.1 p.p. in Novgorod Oblast (2006), 18.2 p.p. in Kalmykia (2008), 17.4 p.p. in Adygea (2011), 16.4 p.p. in the Chuvash Republic (2006), 15.8 p.p. in Tyumen Oblast (2007), 15.6 p.p. in the Tyva Republic (2006), 15.5 p.p. in the Udmurt Republic.

CPRF and LDPR got better results in the capital in more than a half of campaigns, with 105 and 82 respectively. The dynamics of these parties, which is presented in Table 2, is quite interesting. We have divided the period under research into three cycles: December 2003 – April 2007 (49 campaigns); December 2007 – March 2011 (48 campaigns); October 2012 – September 2017 (41 campaign).

Table 2. The differences between CPRF and LDPR results in the region and its center during the regional parliament elections in 2003-2017
Cycle CPRF LDPR
number of campaigns* ratio** number of campaigns* ratio**
Dec 2003 – Apr 2007 13 / 35 2.7 20 / 29 1.5
Dec 2007 – Mar 2011 11 / 37 3.4 17 / 31 1.8
Oct 2012 – Sept 2017 8 / 33 4.1 19 / 22 1.2

* The number to the left is the number of regions where the regional index is higher than the capital index. The number to the right is the number of regions where the regional index is lower than the capital index.
** The relation between the number of regions with lower regional index and the number of regions with higher regional index.

As can be seen in the table, CPRF was becoming more and more of an “urban” party during the period under research. LDPR, on the other hand, displayed multidirectional tendencies, just as it did during the federal elections: it was more “urban” in the second cycle than in the first one, and then it made a significant move towards the periphery.

3. The differences in electoral indices across the region and its center during head of region elections

When it comes to head of region elections, a comparison of the results for incumbents (both winning and losing) and winning non-incumbents across the region and in the capital proves to be a more interesting area of research.

In 1991-1994, the head of region elections were held in certain regions of Russia. From 1995 to 2004, and in one region in 2005, the elections were held almost everywhere (except in Dagestan), and then were revived in 2012 (except in a small number of regions). Incidentally, the period between August of 1995 and March of 1997 stands out particularly, when the elections were held in 70 regions and the incumbents managed to win only 37 regions. The incumbents’ success rate started to increase later on: they won 19 campaigns out of 31 starting in June of 1997 and up to the end of 1999, 45 campaigns out of 49 in 2000-2002 and 30 out of 36 in 2003-2005 [11: 365–381, 589–596]. After restoring gubernatorial elections in 2012, the incumbent lost only one campaign out of 87 [14].

As for the election results in capitals, the following data is available: August 1995 – March 1997 (60 campaigns) [19], June 1997 – the end of 2000 (67 campaigns) [21] and data starting from December of 2003 (28 campaigns in 2003-2005 and 87 campaigns in 2012-2017) [20] except for Agin-Buryat, Koryak, Nenets (in 1996), Ust-Orda Buryat and Evenk Autonomous Okrugs as well as the Chechen Republic in 1995 and 1997, Orenburg and Sakhalin Oblasts in 2003.

From August 1995 to March 1997, out of the 34 campaigns under study where the incumbents won the elections 20 cases displayed better results on the periphery and 14 in the center. The following incumbents displayed the “urban” tendency: K.N. Ilyumzhinov in Kalmykia, V.I. Ishaev in Khabarovsk Krai, A.P. Guzhvin in Astrakhan Oblast, Ye.S. Savchenko in Belgorod Oblast, V.Ye. Pozgalev in Vologda Oblast, V.A. Biryukov in Kamchatka Oblast, B.Ye. Nemtsov in Nizhny Novgorod Oblast, I.P. Farkhutdinov in Sakhalin Oblast, R.F. Geniatulin in Chita Oblast, A.I. Lisitsyn in Yaroslavl Oblast, N.M. Volkov in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, A.V. Filipenko in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug, A.V. Nazarov in the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug and Yu.V. Neyelov in Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug. Besides, A.A. Yefremov (Arkhangelsk Oblast) got better results on the periphery in the first round while in the second his results were better in the center.

In three out of the six cases where incumbents took the lead in the first round but lost in the second they had better results in the center in the first round (Yu.S. Matochkin in Kaliningrad Oblast, Ye.B. Komarov in Murmansk Oblast, O.I. Betin in Tambov Oblast). In the second round, the situation changed in three regions: Ye.B. Komarov got the best results on the periphery while I.P. Shabunin (Volgograd Oblast) and I.I. Indinok (Novosibirsk Oblast) improved their results in the center.

Out of the 20 cases where the incumbents lost the lead in the first round only five displayed better results in the center. Another case displayed better results in the center in the second round.

The winners from the opposition also showed better results on the periphery: in 16 cases out of 26 in the first round and in 12 cases out of 16 in the second. Among the non-incumbents who gravitated towards the regional center were N.I. Kondratenko in Krasnodar Krai, N.V. Vinogradov in Vladimir Oblast, V.V. Sudarenkov in Kaluga Oblast, V.A. Shershunov in Kostroma Oblast, A.V. Rutskoi in Kursk Oblast, Yu.A. Yevdokimov in Murmansk Oblast, V.N. Lyubimov in Ryazan Oblast, V.I. Platov in Tver Oblast, P.I. Sumin in Chelyabinsk Oblast. Besides, Ye.E. Mikhailov (Pskov Oblast) got better result in the center in the first round and on the periphery in the second.

From June 1997 to December 2000, out of the 43 campaigns under study where the incumbents (including A.A. Volkov, the Udmurt Republic State Council chairman during the first elections of the head of the Republic, and A.D. Artamonov, first deputy of Kaluga Oblast governor and the official successor of V.V. Sudarenkov who did not run in the election) won the elections, 34 cases displayed better results on the periphery and 9 in the center. This time the following incumbents gravitated towards the capital: A.I. Lebed in Khakassia, V.I. Ishaev in Khabarovsk Krai, O.A. Bogomolov in Kurgan Oblast, E.E. Rossel in Sverdlovsk Oblast, Yu.A. Yevdokimov in Murmansk Oblast, I.P. Farkhutdinov in Sakhalin Oblast, V.M. Kress in Tomsk Oblast, A.V. Filipenko in Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug and Yu.V. Neyelov in Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug.

Out of the 18 cases of incumbents losing only four displayed better results in the center. At the same time, V.V. Yelagin in Orenburg Oblast had better results in the first round and on the periphery in the second.

A shift from central to peripheral trends was spotted among the so-called “old-timers” such as A.P. Guzhvin (Astrakhan Oblast), Ye.S. Savchenko (Belgorod Oblast), V.Ye. Pozgalev (Vologda Oblast), R.F. Geniatulin (Chita Oblast), A.I. Lisitsyn (Yaroslavl Oblast), N.M. Volkov (Jewish Autonomous Oblast) as well as among the incumbents who won the election in the previous cycle, among whom are N.V. Vinogradov (Vladimir Oblast), V.A. Shershunov (Kostroma Oblast), V.N. Lyubimov (Ryazan Oblast), V.I. Platov (Tver Oblast), P.I. Sumin (Chelyabinsk Oblast).

As for the non-incumbent winners of the given period, in 17 cases out of 24 they displayed better results in the capital. It must be noted that many capital mayors were among the elected heads of the region: S.L. Katanandov in Karelia, B.A. Govorin in Irkutsk Oblast, I.P. Sklyarov in Nizhny Novgorod Oblast, V.A. Tolokonsky in Novosibirsk Oblast, Yu.P. Trutnev in Perm Oblast, A.D. Prokhorov in Smolensk Oblast plus V.K. Bochkaryov, the head of administration in one of the districts of Penza. Thus, it is no surprise that all of these candidate got better results in the capital than on the periphery.

From December 2003 to February 2005, out of the 19 campaigns won by incumbents 13 displayed better results on the periphery and 6 in the capital. The latter include L.I. Markelov in the Mari El Republic, A.I. Lebed in Khakassia, V.I. Ishayev in Khabarovsk Krai, M.B. Mashkovtsev in Kamchatka Oblast, N.I. Shaklein in Kirov Oblast and Yu.A. Yevdokimov in Murmansk Oblast.

In all five cases of incumbents losing the election they had better results on the periphery in the first round. The second round had A.A. Yefremov (Arkhangelsk Oblast) with the best results in the capital.

Out of the 9 non-incumbent winners of the elections, two had better first-round results in the center: M.S. Yevdokimov in Altai Krai and G.I. Shpak in Ryazan Oblast. M.V. Kuznetsov in Pskov Oblast, D.V. Zelenin in Tver Oblast and A.V. Barinov in Nenets Autonomous Okrug joined them in round two.

In 2012-2017, the incumbents had better results in the capital only in 7 out of 82 campaigns. Among them were K.K. Ilkovsky in Zabaikalsk Krai (2013), A.B. Karlin in Altai Krai (2014), A.I. Bocharov in Volgograd Oblast (2014), N.Yu. Belykh in Kirov Oblast (2014), V.P. Shantsev in Nizhny Novgorod Oblast (2014), A.V. Bogomaz in Bryansk Oblast (2015) and A.M. Tuleyev in Kemerovo Oblast (2015).

At the same time, they had minimal percentage point difference: N.Yu. Belykh had the maximum (3.9 p.p.) while K.K. Ilkovsky, A.I. Bocharov, V.P. Shantsev and A.M. Tuleyev had less than 1 p.p. Besides, the gap in favour of the results in the region was quite significant most of the time: O.P. Korolyov (Lipetsk Oblast, 2014) had 25.0 p.p., S.V. Yeroshenko (Irkutsk Oblast, 2015, first round) had 19.4 p.p., N.V. Denin (Bryansk Oblast, 2012) had 16.9 p.p.

The situation in Irkutsk Oblast in 2015 requires special attention, since it was the only region with the incumbent losing the elections in 2012-2017. In the region, S.V. Yeroshchenko was leading in the first round with 49.6% while the communist candidate S.G. Levchenko got 36.6%. In Irkutsk, however, S.G. Levchenko got 55.7% while S.V. Yeroshchenko only got 30.2%. The communist candidate took the lead over the incumbent in the region as well in the second round (56.4% against 41.5%) and strengthened his leading position in the capital (71.5% against 26.6%).

It was also interesting to see how the voter turnout in the region was higher than in the capital in the first round (29.2% against 24.9%), while in the second it was quite the opposite with the capital being more active in voter turnout (41.4% against 37.2%). The analysis showed that S.G. Levchenko’s success was based on the effective mobilization of the opposition voters in Irkutsk and other cities where after the first round the electorate started to believe their vote mattered [9: 463-470].

Aside from the election in Irkutsk Oblast in 2015, there were a few other cases where the capital election results were different from the region-wide ones not only in quantity, but also in quality. For example, in nine campaigns in 2012-2017 (excluding Irkutsk) the winner received less than 50% of votes. There are examples of other candidates taking the leading position in the capital. For instance, L.A. Korshunov, the head of regional administration, was leading in both rounds in Barnaul (the capital of Altai Krai) in 1996, but A.A. Surikov had the region-wide lead, which won him the election. In 2004 Surikov gave way to M.S. Evdokimov in Barnaul as early as the first round. V.G. Mikhailov, the head of regional administration, was leading in Magadan in 1996, but V.I. Tsvetkov won region-wide. In the 1996 election in Volgograd, I.P. Shabunin, the head of regional administration, took the lead over N.K. Maksyuta in the second round. In 1997 in Krasnoyarsk, V.M. Zubov, the governor, received 50.9% and 52.6% in the first and second rounds respectively, but A.I. Lebed won region-wide. In 2015 in Yoshkar-Ola, S.P. Mamayev, the communist candidate, took the lead over L.I. Markelov (39.0% against Markelov’s 37.3% in the capital; 32.3% and 50.8% region-wide respectively).

If we compare the four cycles under study (see Table 3) we can see that the heads’ of the region reliance on the peripheral electorate mostly increased over time. While in 1995-1997 the ratio between the campaigns with peripheral and urban orientation of the incumbent was less than two, in 2012-2017 it was more than 10.

Table 3. The difference between voter turnout and the incumbent’s results across the region and in the capital during the head of region elections
Cycle Voter turnout (each round separately) The incumbent’s results in the first round
the number of campaigns* ratio** the number of campaigns * ratio**
1995 – March 1997 64 / 16 4 38 / 22 1.7
June 1997 – 2000 67 / 21 3.2 48 / 13 3.7
2003 – 2005 35 / 6 5.8 18 / 6 3
2012 – 2017 79 / 3 26.3 75 / 7 10.7

* The number to the left is the number of regions where the regional index is higher than the capital index. The number to the right is the number of regions where the regional index is lower than the capital index.
** The relation between the number of regions with lower regional index and the number of regions with higher regional index.

The relation in voter turnout between the capital and the periphery changed in the same manner (see also Table 3). During all of the periods under study, the voter turnout was often higher on the periphery. However, while the regions with higher voter turnout in the capital made up to one-fourth or one-fifth part of the total number in 1995-2000, only three such regions remained in 2012-2017. Tyumen Oblast was one of such regions, where the voter turnout at regional elections is typically low across the autonomous okrugs comprising the region. If the autonomous okrugs are not taken into consideration, the voter turnout in Tyumen was lower than the average across this part of the region.

We compared the “none of the above” results in the regions and their capitals for the period between December 2003 and February 2005. The “none of the above” voting results were higher in the capital in 36 cases, while on the periphery there were only five such cases.

4. A more detailed study of intraregional differences of electoral indices during the 2003-2018 elections in certain regions

We have chosen nine regions for a more detailed study: Altai Krai, Stavropol Krai, Amur Oblast, Arkhangelsk Oblast, Volgograd Oblast, Novosibirsk Oblast, Orenburg Oblast, Tver Oblast and Chelyabinsk Oblast. The choice was based on the sufficient stability of administrative and territorial division, the sufficient number of urban and municipal districts. The chosen regions represent all of the federal districts.

Each region was divided into the capital, cities, districts with towns and municipal districts with rural settlements (sometimes the districts with small towns also fell into this category). The division was based on the data provided by the Federal State Statistics Service [4].

In Stavropol Krai, we included Buddyonovsk (in 2003-2004), Georgiyevsk, Yessentuki, Zheleznovodsk, Kislovodsk, Lermontov, Nevinnomyssk and Pyatigorsk into the cities group. Blagodarnensky, Buddyonovsky (in 2016-2018), Izobilnensky, Ipatovsky, Kirovsky, Mineralovodsky, Neftekumsky, Novoaleksandrovsky, Petrovsky, Sovetsky and Shpakovsky Districts were included into the districts with towns group. All of the remaining districts fell under the rural areas group. The relative proportion of the voters in each group was the following: 14-16% in Stavropol, 24-27% in the cities, 31-35% in the districts with towns, 25-28% in rural areas.

In Amur Oblast, we included Belogorsk, Zeya, Raichikhinsk, Svobodny, Tynda, Uglegorsk, Shimanovsk and Progress work settlement (in 2007-2018) into the cities group. Arkharinsky, Bureisky, Zavitinsky, Magdagachinsky, Selemdzhinsky, Seryshevsky and Skovorodinsky Districts were included into the districts with towns group. All of the remaining districts fell under the rural areas group. The relative proportion of the voters in each group was the following: 25-27% in Blagoveshchensk, 29-31% in the cities, 17-19% in the districts with towns, 25-26% in rural areas.

In Arkhangelsk Oblast (without the Nenets Autonomous Okrug), we included Koryazhma, Kotlas, Mirny, Novodvinsk, Severodvinsk and Novaya Zemlya urban okrug (district) into the cities group. Verkhnetoyemsky, Vilegodsky, Krasnoborsky, Leshukonsky, Pinezhsky, Primorsky, Kholmogorsky Districts and Solovetsky settlement (in 2003-2015) were included into the rural areas group. All of the remaining districts fell under the districts with towns group. The relative proportion of the voters in each group was the following: 29-30% in Arkhangelsk, 31-33% in the cities, 27% in the districts with towns, 11-12% in rural areas.

In Volgograd Oblast, we included Volzhsky, Kamyshin, Mikhailovka, Uryupinsk and Frolovo into the cities group. Alekseyevsky, Kikvidzensky, Kletsky, Kumylzhensky, Mikhailovsky, Nekhayevsky, Olkhovsky, Staropoltavsky, Uryupinsky and Frolovsky Districts were included into the rural areas group. All of the remaining districts fell under the districts with towns group. The relative proportion of the voters in each group was the following: 39-41% in Volgograd, 21-22% in the cities, 30-32% in the districts with towns, 8% in rural areas.

In Novosibirsk Oblast, we included Barabinsk (in 2003-2008), Berdsk, Iskitim, Kuibyshev (in 2003-2008), Ob, Tatarsk (in 2003-2008) as well as Koltsovo settlement (in 2007-2018) into the cities group. Bagansky, Vengerovsky, Dovolensky, Zdvinsky, Kochkovsky, Kuibyshevsky (in 2003-2008), Kyshtovsky, Severny, Tatarsky (in 2003-2008), Ubinsky and Ust-Tarksky Districts were included into the rural areas group. All of the remaining districts fell under the districts with towns group. The relative proportion of the voters in each group was the following: 54-56% in Novosibirsk, 27-33% in the cities, 27-33% in the districts with towns, 5-7% in rural areas.

In Orenburg Oblast, we included Buguruslan, Buzuluk, Gai, Mednogorsk, Novotroitsk, Orsk, Sorochinsk as well as ZATO Komarovsky (in 2007-2018) into the cities group. Abdulinsky, Kuvandyksky, Sol-Iletsky and Yasnensky Districts were included into the districts with towns group. All of the remaining districts fell under the rural areas group. The relative proportion of the voters in each group was the following: 25-27% in Orenburg, 28-30% in the cities, 8% in the districts with towns, 36-38% in rural areas.

In Tver Oblast, we included Vyshny Volochek, Kimry, Rzhev, Torzhok, ZATO Ozyorny and Solnechny into the cities group. Vyshnevolotsky, Kalininsky, Kimrsky, Lesnoi, Rameshkovsky, Rzhevsky and Torzhoksky Districts were included into the rural areas group. All of the remaining districts fell under the districts with towns group. The relative proportion of the voters in each group was the following: 29-31% in Tver, 16% in the cities, 42-44% in the districts with towns, 10-12% in rural areas.

In Chelyabinsk Oblast, we included Verkhny Ufalei, Emanzhelinsk, Zlatoust, Karabash, Kopeisk, Kyshtym, Magnitogorsk, Miass, Ozyorsk, Snezhinsk, Trekhgorny, Troitsk, Ust-Katav, Chebarkul, Yuzhnouralsk, Lokomotivny settlement into the cities group. Ashinsky, Verkhneuralsky, Kartalinsky, Kaslinsky, Katav-Ivanovsky, Korkinsky, Kusinsky, Nyazepetrovsky, Plastovsky and Satkinsky Districts were included into the districts with towns group. All of the remaining districts fell under the rural areas group. The relative proportion of the voters in each group was the following: 31-33% in Chelyabinsk, 40-42% in the cities, 12-13% in the districts with towns, 12-13% in rural areas.

In each region, we analyzed the results of the 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2018 presidential elections, the 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2016 legislative elections, the 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2016 head of the region elections (both rounds where there were two) and the results of regional parliament elections. The following elections fell under our analysis in each region: the 2004 (two rounds) and 2014 governor election and the Legislative Assembly elections of 2004, 2008, 2011, 2016 in Altai Krai; the 2014 governor election and the 2016 local Duma election in Stavropol Krai (we were not able to find any data on the results in cities and districts for the 2007 and 2011 local Duma elections); the 2012 and 2015 governor elections, the 2005, 2008, 2011 and 2016 Legislative Assembly elections in Amur Oblast; the 2004 (two rounds) and 2015 governor elections, the 2004, 2009 and 2013 Legislative Assembly elections in Arkhangelsk Oblast, the 2004 (two rounds) and 2014 governor elections, the 2003, 2009 and 2014 local Duma elections in Volgograd Oblast; the 2003 and 2014 governor elections, the 2005, 2010 and 2015 Legislative Assembly elections in Novosibirsk Oblast; the 2014 governor elections, the 2006, 2011 and 2016 Legislative Assembly elections in Orenburg Oblast; the 2003 (two rounds) and 2016 governor elections, the 2005, 2011 and 2016 Legislative Assembly elections in Tver Oblast; the 2014 governor elections, the 2005, 2010 and 2015 Legislative Assembly elections in Chelyabinsk Oblast.

To sum it up, we analyzed the results of 14 elections in four regions, 15 in Altai Krai, 13 in Novosibirsk Oblast, 12 in Orenburg and Chelyabinsk Oblasts and 10 in Stavropol Krai. Overall, 118 elections were analyzed.

In each case, we analyzed the election results for each candidate or each party list (the percentage from the number of actual voters), “none of the above” votes (in 2003-2006), the percentage of invalid ballots (from the number of actual voters), voter turnout (the percentage from the number of actual voters against the number of registered voters), absentee ballots voting (where such a situation took place), voting outside the voting premises (the percentage from the number of actual voters) and taking the ballots away from the voting premises (the difference between the number of issued ballots and their number in ballot boxes divided by the number of actual voters).

Table 4 displays the results of the elections for the State Duma in Volgograd Oblast in 2016.

Table 4. A comparison of electoral indices across four territory groups in Volgograd Oblast during the elections for the State Duma in 2016
Index Volgograd cities town areas rural areas
Voter turnout 37.6% 43.4% 43.7% 55.5%
Voting outside the voting premises 4.1% 6.4% 14.3% 23.1%
Absentee ballots voting 3.0% 1.5% 0.9% 0.8%
Taking the ballots away from the voting premises 0.08% 0.07% 0.10% 0.01%
Invalid ballots 1.83% 1.89% 1.94% 1.55%
United Russia 46.4% 50.3% 52.5% 60.1%
CPRF 15.5% 14.9% 15.1% 12.4%
LDPR 15.0% 16.0% 17.6% 15.7%
A Just Russia 7.9% 6.4% 3.5% 3.2%
Communists of Russia 2.0% 2.4% 3.1% 2.7%
Yabloko 3.1% 1.7% 0.8% 0.4%
Rodina 1.7% 1.3% 1.0% 0.8%

The most obvious cases are the ones where the index was steadily increasing or declining in the “capital – cities – districts with towns – rural areas” chain. In such cases we can safely assume the index is connected to the specific characteristics of urban and rural electorate.

Table 5 displays only the indices that were steadily increasing in the “capital – cities – districts with towns – rural areas” chain among the regions under study. Among such indices were voter turnout, voting outside the voting premises (home or field voting), voting for certain parties or certain presidential candidates. For this, we should note that for some indices the number of steady increase cases was found in more than a half of the analyzed elections. There were some regular cases such as voting outside the voting premises the level of which is typically high in rural areas, voting for the Agrarian Party of Russia as well as for the 2004 CPRF presidential candidate N.M. Kharitonov who was still regarded as an “agrarian” representative. The rural orientation of the small electorate for the Party of Peace and Unity was less predictable.

Table 5. Indices with a steady increase in the “capital – cities – districts with towns – rural areas” chain
Index Number of elections Number of steady increase cases
Voter turnout 118 44
Voting outside the voting premises 118 64
Agrarian Party of Russia 24 13
Party of Peace and Unity 10 7
Conceptual party “Unity” 10 5
Communists of Russia 12 4
D.A. Medvedev 9 3
O.A. Malyshkin 9 1
N.M. Kharitonov 9 6

Table 6 displays only the indices that were steadily decreasing in the “capital – cities – districts with towns – rural areas” chain among the regions under study. Among such indices were absentee ballots voting, “none of the above” voting, voting for liberal and center-left parties and their candidates. For this, we should note that for some indices the number of steady increase cases was found in more than a half of the analyzed elections. Such cases included “none of the above” voting, voting for liberals (Yabloko, Pravoye Delo / Party of Growth, People's Freedom Party (PARNAS), I.M. Khakamada, A.V. Bogdanov, M.D. Prokhorov, G.A. Yavlinsky) as well as voting for Russian Ecological Party “The Greens” and S. Yu. Glaziyev.

Table 6. Indices with a steady decrease in the “capital – cities – districts with towns – rural areas” chain
Index Number of elections Number of steady decrease cases
Absentee ballots voting 106 26
“None of the above” vote 35 18
A Just Russia 46 15
Yabloko 48 43
Union of Right Forces 23 17
Russian Ecological Party “The Greens” 20 15
Pravoye Delo / Party of Growth 21 13
People's Freedom Party (PARNAS) 9 8
S.M. Mironov 18 6
S.Yu. Glaziyev 9 7
S.N. Baburin 9 1
I.M. Khakamada 9 7
A.V. Bogdanov 9 5
M.D. Prokhorov 9 7
K.A. Sobchak 9 4
G.A. Yavlinsky 9 8

The indices that were steadily increasing in the “capital – cities – districts with towns – rural areas” chain in some cases but steadily decreasing in others were particularly interesting (see Table 7). For some cases, however, one of these trends was dominating whereas there were almost no opposite cases. For example, the “taking the ballots away from the voting premises” index was steadily increasing only during the 2018 presidential election in Stavropol Krai (where we noticed a gross inaccuracy in a protocol of one of the rural polling stations that led to 800 ballots allegedly having been taken away from the voting premises). The 2005 Novosibirsk Oblast Legislative Assembly election was the only case of a steady decrease in the United Russia results, since the party list of the Agrarian Party of Russia headed by N.M. Kharitonov was leading in rural areas [12: 360-364]. The only case of a steady increase for the Patriots of Russia is also connected with the Novosibirsk Oblast Legislative Assembly election, of 2015 this time. The 2004 Arkhangelsk Oblast Legislative Assembly election was the only rural orientation case for the parties and blocs that used the “Rodina” brand, since the head of the Solovki nonprofit partnership opened the Rodina regional department there [12: 242-246].

Table 7. Multidirectional indices
Index Number of elections Number of cases in the “capital – cities – districts with towns – rural areas” chain with a steady
increase decrease
Taking the ballots away from the voting premises 118 1 30
Invalid ballots 118 8 15
United Russia 63 36 1
LDPR 63 2 12
CPRF 62 3 13
Patriots of Russia 37 1 16
Rodina* 25 1 12
Democratic Party of Russia 19 5 2
V.V. Putin 27 6 3
V.V. Zhirinovsky 27 5 3
G.A. Zyuganov 18 1 4

* All parties and blocs that used this brand.

The situation with invalid ballots was particularly interesting. In eight cases, their percentage increased from the capital to the rural areas, while six out of them are found in 2003-2004. The 2008 Amur Oblast Legislative Assembly election and the 2018 presidential election in Stavropol Krai are the exceptions. In 15 cases, the percentage of invalid ballots decreased from rural areas to the capital. We observed all these cases in 2007-2016, with seven of them happening in 2007-2008 – right after eliminating the “none of the above” vote.

Out of three cases where the support for V.V. Putin increased starting from rural areas and to the capital, two are from 2004 (when N.M. Kharitonov, the agrarian, was his main opponent) and one is from 2012. Out of six cases where the support for V.V. Putin increased starting from the capital and to the rural areas, five are from 2012 and one is from 2004. There were no clear trends in any of the nine analyzed regions in 2018.

The support for G.A. Zyuganov increased starting from the capital and to the rural areas only in 2012 in Stavropol Krai, and three of the opposite four cases are from 2008. For CPRF, all three cases of rural orientation are found in 2003 while the urban orientation manifested in 2005-2016.

LDPR was mostly city-oriented with the exception of the 2005 and 2015 Novosibirsk Oblast Legislative Assembly elections. For V.V. Zhirinovsky, however, the situation was often the opposite. Out of three cases where the support for him increased starting from rural areas and to the capital, two manifested in 2008 and one in 2012. Out of five opposite cases, three manifested in 2018, one in 2008 and one in 2012.

No clear trend manifested itself for P.N. Grudinin and M.A. Suraikin in any of the analyzed regions.

At the same time, such trends were visible for some outsider parties. We have mentioned the Party of Peace and Unity previously. Table 4 also displays cases of rural orientation for the Conceptual party “Unity” and the Communists of Russia, Table 5 displays an urban orientation for the Russian Ecological Party “The Greens” while Table 6 displays the ambivalence of the Democratic Party of Russia. Both cases of urban orientation for the latter, however, manifested in 2007 while all five cases of rural orientation manifested in 2003; at the same time, this formally one and the same party had different party lists in 2003 and 2007.

Besides, during the 2003 federal legislative elections, rural orientation manifested itself for the Russian National Republican Party (5 cases), Russian Constitutional Democratic Party (4 cases), United Party of Russia “Rus” (2 cases) and the True Patriots of Russia (Istinnye patrioty Rossii; 2 cases). As for the urban orientation in 2003, it manifested itself for the “New Course – Automobile Russia” bloc (Novii Kurs –Avtomobilnaya Rossiya; 7 cases), Union of People for Education and Science (Soyuz lyudei za obrazovaniye i nauku; 4 cases) and Business Development (Razvitiye predprinimatelstva; 4 cases). In 2007, Civilian Power (8 cases) and the Party of Social Justice (6 cases) displayed an urban orientation.

There were a few steady increase or decrease cases in the “capital – cities – districts with towns – rural areas” chain for the head of the region candidates. The 2003 Tver Oblast governor election is very a good example, since both V.I. Platov (the incumbent) and D.V. Zelenin (the winner) displayed a rural orientation. I.M Rudenya, the Acting Governor of Tver Oblast, displayed a rural orientation in 2016. The incumbent N.K. Maksyuta relied on the rural electorate in Volgograd Oblast in 2004. In Amur Oblast in 2015, rural orientation could be observed for the Acting Governor A.A.Kozlov while his R.A. Kobyzov, his CPRF opponent, displayed an urban orientation.

The cases of the highest and the lowest indices for the city group (meaning higher or lower than the capital and the remaining two groups combined) were particularly interesting as well, and they are displayed in Table 8. While these cases did not constitute an absolute majority for any of the indices, they were still quite frequent for certain indices.

Table 8. Cases where the urban districts group indices had the highest or the lowest values
Index Number of elections Number of times when the index was
the highest the lowest
Voter turnout 118 5 42
Voting outside the voting premises 118 0 28
Absentee ballots voting 106 7 31
Taking the ballots away from the voting premises 118 30 4
Invalid ballots 118 33 15
“None of the above” vote 35 8 0
United Russia 63 1 8
LDPR 63 21 7
CPRF 62 17 5
A Just Russia 46 11 5
Patriots of Russia 37 6 1
Rodina* 25 7 0
Agrarian Party of Russia 24 0 9
V.V. Putin 27 0 11
D.A. Medvedev 9 1 1
V.V. Zhirinovsky 27 4 2
O.A. Malyshkin 9 2 0
G.A. Zyuganov 18 7 1

The table is not fully displayed Show table

* All parties and blocs that used this brand.

As we can see, the voter turnout in the urban districts group is often (in 36% of cases) proves to be lower than in both the capital and rural periphery. On the other hand, the so-called “protest” indices, such as the “none of the above” vote (23%), invalid ballots (28%), taking the ballots away from the voting premises (25%) typically reach their maximum in urban districts. At the same time, a temporary transformation can often be observed in terms of invalid ballots. Out of the 15 cases when this index value was the lowest in the urban districts group 11 are found in 2003-2005, when the “none of the above” vote was still present. The remaining four cases are observed exclusively in Amur Oblast. Out of the 33 cases when this index value was maximum in the urban districts group 29 are found in 2007-2018 and only four in 2003-2004 (three of them in Tver Oblast).

As for the “party of power” (United Russia, V.V. Putin, D.A. Medvedev), the lowest values are rare in the urban districts group while maximum values are even more rare. There were only two such cases: voting for United Russia during the Arkhangelsk Oblast Assembly elections in 2004 and voting for D.A. Medvedev in Altai Krai in 2008.

The situation is more interesting when it comes to LDPR, CPRF and their candidates. In this case we can often see that middle-sized cities specifically are more active in voting for this group than both the capitals and rural periphery. For LDPR it is a third of all cases, more than a fourth for CPRF and more than a third for G.A. Zyuganov. It is particularly interesting to see that in this group precisely P.N. Grudinin and M.A. Suraikin received the best results in four out of nine regions each. No such preferences can be observed for V.V. Zhirinovsky in these cities, however.

Such parties as A Just Russia, Patriots of Russia and different Rodina variations did not have many cases of best results in the cities either. The same can be said about their candidates S.Yu. Glaziev and S.M. Mironov.

At the same time, the Agrarian Party of Russia quite often received the lowest results in the urban group. This is not a surprise, however, since only the representatives of agrarian universities and officials on rural area affairs could vote for them in the capitals, while there may be no agrarian representatives in other districts with towns at all.

Speaking about the parties and blocs that took part only in one Duma campaign, we can single out the following: Civic Platform party that received the lowest urban group results in the six regions out of nine, Russian Party of Pensioners for Social Justice that received their highest urban groups results in five regions, True Patriots of Russia (Istinnye patrioty Rossii; in 2003 it mostly consisted of Dagestan citizens) received the lowest urban group results in six regions and the highest only in one case, the United Party of Russia “Rus” (Obyedinennaya rossiiskaya partiya “Rus”; received the lowest urban group results in five regions) and the “Great Russia – Eurasian Union” bloc (the lowest urban group results in five regions and highest in one).

There have been cases of the lowest or the highest urban group results for the main candidates during the head of the region elections. For example, during the 2004 elections in Arkhangelsk Oblast, the incumbent A.A. Yefremov received the highest results in this group (30.5% against 24.5% in Arkhangelsk and 23.9% in rural areas) while the race leader N.I. Kiselyov received the lowest results (39.9% against 41.3% in Arkhangelsk and 54.5% in rural areas). D.V. Zelenin, who was elected governor of Tver Oblast in 2003, received the lowest urban group results in the second round. The similar situation occurred in the first and only round for V.A. Tolokonsky in Novosibirsk Oblast in 2003. In 2014, however, the same region had V.F. Gorodetsky (former mayor of Novosibirsk) receive the highest urban group results (71.0% against 61.4% in Novosibirsk and 67.1% in rural areas). Among the candidates with the highest urban group results were O.N. Kozhemyako in Amur Oblast in 2012 (80.1% against 67.9% in Blagoveshchensk) and Yu.A. Berg in Orenburg Oblast in 2014 (83.2% against 72.1% in Orenburg) while A.B. Karlin in Altai Krai in 2014 was the candidate with the lowest urban group results.

5. Discussing the results

As we can see, many electoral indices, both political (voting for candidates or parties) and organizational (voting outside the voting premises, voting by absentee ballots) are linked to the social and geographical peculiarities of the electorate. In this case, we are talking about the differences in electoral behavior between inhabitants of large cities, middle-sized cities and rural areas.

These issues have been discussed in other publications to a certain extent. For example, it was shown that the level of “none of the above” votes in the region had a positive correlation with the percentage of urban and Russian population in the region [2]. The situation was the same concerning the voter turnout since a negative correlation with these two factors as well as with the distance between the capital and Moscow could be observed. According to A.S. Akhremenko, these factors function indirectly, particularly through the specifics of the “social network” structure in the region, which is determined by the traditional ways of establishing political communication [1]. We have also pointed out the differences in the voter turnout levels between the capitals, urban and rural localities in our previous works [13].

N.V. Zubarevich has divided the entire territory of Russian Federation into four parts based on the social and geographical characteristics: “Russia-1” (cities with a population of more than 250 thousand), “Russia-2” (industrial cities with a population ranging between 20-30 and 250 thousand), “Russia-3” (villages, settlements and small towns) and “Russia-4” (underdeveloped republics of North Caucasus and southern part of Siberia) [24]. Our research does not cover “Russia-4,” while the remaining three parts are close enough to the groups under our consideration.

Most capitals are major cities. At present, 62 out of 80 capitals have a population higher than 250 thousand residents (except for Maikop, Gorno-Altaysk, Magas, Elista, Cherkessk, Kyzyl, Abakan, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Blagoveschensk, Magadan, Novgorod, Pskov, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Birobidzhan, Naryan-Mar, Khanty-Mansiysk, Anadyr and Salekhard) [4]. In most regions, the center is the biggest city (except for Ingushetiya, Vologda and Kemerovo Oblasts, Khanty-Mansi and Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrugs), and sometimes it is the only major city. Considering this, most of the capitals can be referred to the “Russia-1” group and compared with the rest of the region.

Out of the urban districts of the nine regions that we have studied in section 4, only the Volzhsky an Magnitogorsk have a population of more than 250 thousand residents. However, N.V. Zubarevich refers Magnitogorsk to “Russia-2.” Overall, the entirety of the cities under research can quite fairly be referred to the “Russia-2” part. The remaining two groups obviously belong to the “Russia-3” part.

N.V. Zubarevich points out that the majority of Russian Internet users and Russian middle class – the group that wants change – is mostly concentrated in major cities (“Russia-1”). “Russia-2” residents have serious protest potential, but it is centered around jobs and salaries, since the problems on the middle class do not bother “Russia-2” very much. “Russia-3” has minimum protest potential [24].

As was mentioned earlier, the fact that voter turnout is higher in rural areas has been known for a long time. There are several explanations for this, among which is the structure of social connections and the fuss of the city life, which makes elections one of the few forms of entertainment in rural areas. We cannot disregard the fact that rural electorate (similar to single-industry towns) is highly dependent on the local administration as well as the fact that the lack of independent control in the rural areas leaves more room for election fraud.

A curious fact is that the voter turnout quite often proved to be lower in middle-sized cities than in the capitals. This may be linked to the fact that the “Russia-2” citizens” are more apolitical and more inclined to protesting than the “Russia-1” citizens.

As for the level of voting outside the voting premises, it has been known for a long time that it is quite high (sometimes extremely high) in rural areas. It can be explained by the fact that a number of regions has some settlements without proper transportation infrastructure, so the election committee representatives have to come there so the residents have a chance to vote. It is not in keeping with the legislation, but has become quite a strong tradition. At the same time, the big number of voters who voted outside the premises is rather suspicious, since it is difficult for the election committee representatives to attend to many voters, which makes it difficult to get proper statistics on this procedure.

Among the nine regions that we researched in more detail, Volgograd and Tver Oblasts displayed the highest levels of voting outside the voting premises. For example, Tver Oblast displayed a steady increase in the level of voting outside the voting premises among the “capital – cities – districts with towns – rural areas” chain. The highest level in the rural areas (29.2%) could be observed during the 2005 legislative election and during the 2008 presidential elections (23.9%). The level of voting outside the voting premises was significantly lower in Tver in these two campaigns (2.9% and 4.1% respectively).

Volgograd Oblast displayed a steady increase in the level of voting outside the voting premises during almost all of the campaigns in the “capital – cities – districts with towns – rural areas” chain (with the exception of the 2014 regional election when it was lower in the urban districts group than in Volgograd). The level reached its peak (26.5%) during the 2012 presidential election; the level for voting outside the voting premises in Volgograd was 9.7% during the same campaign.

The level of voting by absentee ballots was usually higher in the capital than anywhere else. This is not surprising, since the voters in the capitals are more mobile and are more often away from their places of official registration. As for the remaining three groups, the difference was typically minimal and multidirectional.

The “none of the above” vote, invalid ballots and taking the ballots away from the voting premises can be referred to protest behavior. First of all it concerns the “none of the above” vote. As we have mentioned previously, the level of this vote typically correlated with the percentage of urban population. Our data proves this fact as well: in more than a half cases the level of “none of the above” voting showed a steady decline in the “capital – cities – districts with towns – rural areas” chain.

With invalid ballots, the situation is more complicated. Until there was a “none of the above” line (removed in 2006), the percentage of invalid ballots was significantly higher in rural areas. This was likely connected with the lower literacy level of rural electorate (making mistakes when filling in a ballot) or their indifference to the election results (the most important thing is to cast the ballot without necessarily filling it in).

The situation changes in 2007 and onward. The percentage of invalid ballots became higher in the cities (capital or a group of urban districts). This means that the voters were protesting deliberately as opposed to making mistakes unintentionally, which increased the overall level of invalid voting.

Taking the ballots away from the voting premises usually constitutes the tiniest portion (0.1% and less) while the higher numbers are typically a sign of error in the work of polling station commissions. Nevertheless, there are some regularities as far as this index is concerned, which proves the fact that taking the ballots away is another form of protest voting. The percentage is usually higher in the capitals or middle-sized cities.

Socio-geographic characteristics are clearly visible when it comes to voting for candidates or parties. While in 1995-1996 the “federal party of power” received more support in major cities, in 1999 (voting for the Unity bloc) we can observe a steady change for the opposite. Data provided in sections 1 and 2 demonstrate this fact, as does a more detailed research in section 4. The most obvious manifestation of this effect can be observed in voting for United Russia, the level of which increased steadily in the “capital – cities – districts with towns – rural areas” chain. The situation is a bit more difficult when it comes to voting for V.V. Putin and D.A. Medvedev. V.V. Putin in particular received the lowest result in middle-sized cities rather than in the capital.

Voting for liberal and some other (center-left for the most part) parties, such as A Just Russia, Rodina, Russian Ecological Party “The Greens”, points to an opposite trend. These parties typically receive the best results in the capital, with a significant decrease in popularity towards middle-sized cities and the lowest results in rural areas.

The geography of voting for CPRF and LDPR poses a more interesting topic. In 1990s, these parties depended largely on the regional periphery. The first half of 2000s saw an inversion and both parties received better results in the capital than in the region on average. CPRF retained this trend while LDPR took an opposite direction in the recent years. At the same time, the parties typically receive the best results in middle-sized cities, surpassing the capital and rural areas.

Voting for P.N. Grudinin in 2018 became a special phenomenon. As can be seen in Table 1, he received better results in the capital more often than he did in the region on average. However, as we can see in a more detailed research of the nine regions, his results in the capital were never higher compared to the other three groups, but in two cases (Volgograd and Orenburg Oblasts) they were the lowest. In voting for P.N. Grudinin, a group of cities was leading in four regions (Altai Krai, Amur, Novosibirsk and Tver Oblasts), a group of districts with towns was leading in three regions (Arkhangelsk, Orenburg and Chelyabinsk Oblasts) and a group of rural areas was leading in two regions (Stavropol Krai, Volgograd Oblast).

We noticed some interesting geographical regularities in voting for some outsider parties as well, even though their results were rarely anything more than “static noise.” Most frequently these were the parties with an ideological brand. The rural orientation of the Agrarian Party of Russia in particular is not surprising at all. The cases of Conceptual Party “Unity” and Party of Peace and Unity pose a more interesting example. It is reasonable to assume that the less educated voters on the periphery confused these parties with United Russia, especially considering the fact that “Unity” was the first on the ballot list. The rural orientation of the patriotic Russian National Republican Party is less clear, and that of the liberal Russian Constitutional Democratic Party is even more so.

The differences on the level of voting for these or those parties or their candidates may have several explanations. A more traditional explanation is that different parties represent the interests of different social groups. In our opinion, however, such explanation is only applicable to certain parties (besides, other factors will fall into place), such as the Agrarian Party of Russia as well as liberal parties that mostly represent the interests of the middle class that is concentrated in major cities.

In a situation with one dominant party, the opposition between the “party of power” and civil resistance becomes the main cleavage [6] (a graphic example would be the “Vote for any other party” campaign in 2011). If, according to N.V. Zubarevich, the protesting voices are stronger in “Russia-1,” but “Russia-2” has protesting potential as well, the low level of support for United Russia and its representatives in major and middle-sized cities is not surprising. At the same time, the protesting electorate votes for different parties (including center-left and liberals) when it comes to major cities while in middle-sized cities the protest is mostly centered around CPRF and LDPR (as well as for parties speaking on behalf of retired population).

However, we cannot discard other factors that mostly lead to the same results. The residents of larger cities are typically more informed (including by means of the Internet) and are more independent when it comes to their political views and decisions. The residents of rural areas are not only less informed, but also dependent on their local administration and therefore often unable to express their own political views at the elections. The elections in smaller towns and rural localities are also more vulnerable when it comes to voter fraud because of the lack of proper control.

In conclusion, it is worth noting that the fact that the “party of power” focuses on the less informed and economically dependent electorate found in the rural periphery calls into question its ability to ensure the progressive development of the country.

Received 10.05.2018.


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