Despite United Russia’s declining popularity over the last few years, the Kremlin-controlled ruling party still has a base of supporters, as well as being able to muster the votes of many state-sector workers like teachers, doctors, law enforcement, and the military.
Ivan Vorobyov, a Cossack leader in southern Krasnodar Krai and a father of three, is among those who are likely to support United Russia in the September 17-19 State Duma elections, although he considers himself a “socialist” by inclination.
“Right now, if I go to vote, I will vote for United Russia,” Vorobyov told Current Time, the Russian-language network run by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA. “I have a lot of questions, and there is a lot that I don’t like. But unfortunately, it is the only party that can -- that is a ruling party. It can maintain at least some sort of stability for the state.”
Current Time is producing a series of stories featuring families that support each of the major parties running in the elections of the Duma, Russia’s lower parliament house and a key lever of power for President Vladimir Putin. The first installment was devoted to United Russia, which currently holds 343 of the 450 Duma seats and has dominated regional legislatures and executive branches.
The other parties that currently hold seats – the Communist Party, A Just Russia, and the inaccurately named Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, led by flamboyant nationalist firebrand Vladimir Zhirinovsky -- compete against United Russia but often toe the Kremlin line and are widely seen as part of Putin’s system of rule.
Liberal opposition groups have largely been pushed out of electoral politics since Putin came to power more than 20 years ago.
United Russia is polling between 25 and 35 percent, according to the limited opinion surveys that have been conducted publicly. A poll by the independent Levada Center in March found support for United Russia at 27 percent.
“I am a socialist, but I’m also a statist,” Vorobyov said. “I think that there should be a strong, solid, powerful state which -- well, it is good it if cares about its citizens and is capable of defending its citizens.”
When asked what his primary concerns are, Vorobyov did not mention the economy, the state of individual liberties, or widespread reports of corruption among United Russia officials and senior figures in the government and administration of President Vladimir Putin. The most important thing for him is keeping Russia strong in the face of perceived external threats.
“The history of Russia tells us that we are not loved, that we do not have any friends abroad,” he said. “This is absolutely normal. It is objective reality. We are the largest and the richest. That is it. Why should they like us?”