Russia is holding lower level elections to decide the equivalent of state legislative offices and other lower level offices against the backdrop of the global recession. During bad economic times, some voters are more inclined to support Communist Party candidates than the rival Putin backed United Russia Party. Smaller political parties such as The Liberal Democratic Party, Fair Russia and the newly formed right wing, but pro-Kremlin The Right Cause Party also vie for some political power as well.
Russian President Medvedev was hand picked by Putin for the presidency of Russia, although he never held elective office before. Medvedev has issued some statements aimed at reassuring voters that social services and other vital government functions will remain fully funded, and there will not be return back to poverty like in past years despite the huge fall in oil revenue prices as oil undergoes a worldwide deflationary spiral in the wake of falling demand.
The newly formed right wing The Right Cause Party also seems to be an attempt for Russian voters to support a "pro-democracy" party in as much as this party is loyal to the Kremlin and would only likely support a coalition government with the United Russia Party should the Communists surge.
In the 1995 and 1999 parliamentary elections, the Communists were able to win the most votes at 35% and 24%, however a coalition anti-Communist parties have been able to keep the Communists from power since the fall of the old Soviet Union. In the 2007 Parliamentary elections, Putin's popularity due to the strong economy back then helped Dmitry Medvedev to be elected with 71.25% of the vote over Communist candidate Gennady Zyuganov with just 17.96% of the vote. However in the parliamentary vote, the Communists actually gained five seats to a total of 57, but still lags far behind the United Russia Party at 315 seats. The Liberal Democratic is actually neither. It is a far right organization of ultranationalists and holds 40 seats in the Russian parliament, but at least appears to be an ally of the Putin government for the most part. The Fair Russia Party holds 38 seats in the Russian parliament, and while claims to also be an opposition party to the government, it also tends to be pro-Kremlin.
Likely this same old group of quasi-democratic parties that are all united by political support for Putin, more or less, are anti-Communist in nature, and although each is hardly entirely democratic as in the true American sense, even in the worse of times if the Russian economy should struggle with a long-term drop in oil revenues, the coalition of anti-Communist parties should be able to retain power. However bad economic times do often drive some older voters towards the Communists.
While a return to power of the Communists would be the worst possible outcome for American interests, former KGB official Putin still challenges American interests by flexing military might around the world. In fact, when President Obama visited Canada recently, Canadian Air Force planes had to turn back a Russian military aircraft that appeared to be under Kremlin orders to send a message to the new administration. That wasn't the most friendly of welcomes for the new administration, especially after the new American administration promised to "push reset" on relations with Russia if Russia attempts to cooperative and not act confrontational.
Putin and his allies probably have a near lock on political power in Russia, and while they are often far from desirable to all the American foreign policy goals and continue to act as military rivals flexing their muscle around the world, they still remain as the better alternative than the Communists by far. Unfortunately, that's not really a ringing endorsement for this quasi-democratic opposition to the Communists.
Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!