|A now familiar scene in Northern Hemisphere|
The ruling rich man's party in the Kremlin has just gotten badly egged in the face by suffering a 25% drop in the Duma. It is the first reversal for regime's party since a number of prominent robber barons created it in 1999 to support their macho puppet at the time (when Putin was successfully used to divert nation's attention from collapsing economy towards a secessionist terrorist threat). The history of United Russia's seats in 450 person Duma in 1999: 73, in 2003: 225, in 2007: 315, in 2011: 238.
It was to be expected that people would not go for a lukewarm quasi FDRist reactionary policy of United Russia during a paradigm shifting global economic downturn (some members of Putin's party have pictures of FDR on their walls for inspiration). Although survival and additional expenditures on welfare and social safety nets were enough to avoid Greek style riots, they were not nearly enough to maintain (much less gain) popularity.
While it may appear paradoxical that citizens may punish a regime that kept them afloat as some economies have imploded throughout Europe, it is not surprising given human psychology. Whenever the elites actually empower the wage slaves by growing the economic pie, the people get empowered (duh) to demand more and more (see 1960s United States and numerous blue collar worker strikes in China today). If there are sudden reversals that clash with ego expectations, the amounts of hatred released can be dramatic (note Beijing's fear of annual growth dropping to under 7.5%).
Thus the popular shift to the promises of a high tech welfare state that the Communist Party of Russian federation (CPRF) offers. Zyuganov's Communists expanded their delegation's representation in the legislative by a respectable 61%. It is no longer a secret that CPRF stopped being just a platform for nostalgic elderly. The youth are joining the party in droves out of genuine conviction as well as a protest vote. "Business as usual" within CPRF is changing by the month.
It is to be noted that the 3 main opposition parties (including CPRF) are only allowed to exist by the Kremlin in order to have an effective feedback mechanism from the people that wasn't present until 1991. This allows the financial and industrial cartels that rule the country to be relatively flexible, avoid stagnation, and respond to wage slave needs in a relatively timely manner.
If the emerging Chinese princeling leadership (comfortable soft children of the old guard) ever democratize towards party pluralism, it may be along these lines. Similar system of feed back also exists in Syria where pro-Assad party allows some minor friendly parties to openly express popular discontent within structured channels. Multi-party (more than 2) rich man's democracy may even come to places like United States in the years to come as it appears that the power elites in Washington DC have lost the ability to measure and comprehend the sheer levels of peasant hatred against them. One can imagine a controlled monkey like Kucinich being allowed a small political block so frustrations can be channeled and systematically co-opted.
Having said that, CPRF remains the most autonomous oppositional entity with greatest potential for unpredictable action especially if its aging leadership is suddenly replaced internally. Kremlin's strategists may find it necessary to dramatically increase or restructure their psychological, informational, and financial warfare and co-option approach towards CPRF. The leading theorist of Russian managed democracy and "brains behind the throne" Vladislav Surkov, already helped create a fake opposition center-left party Just Russia to try to drain votes from CPRF. The other fake opposition party Liberal Democrats (LDPR) does a marvelous job sucking in the less pleasant crypto-fascist and militarist elements of society (think a special party to catch and compartmentalize the Michele Bachman and Rudy Gulliani lovers).
Surkov's goal is to have one "steering" party rule for 30-50 years the way Sweden and Japan were in the second half of the 20th century. The tiny parties may even be allowed to become substantially more independent (if they continue to take small amount of seats that is..). This would allow implementation of 5,10,20, and 30 year economic plans. Unfortunately, some current long term plans are paper shuffling jokes (building financial center to rival London) rather than being tangible herd improving ones. An example of the latter is the Northern River Reversal water project which would really glue Central Asian and possibly Persian elites to Kremlin's leadership and provide enough regional jobs to neutralize the fires of Islamic radicalism being currently fanned by Anglo geopolitical strategists.
It will be interesting to see:
1) How Putin modifies his position before the presidential election in response to this pie on the face
2) If Medvedev will even stick around
3) Which one of the 3 smaller party gremlins the papa gremlin will choose to cooperate with the most.
There have already been signals that the militarist LDPR may be the ally of choice as Putin returns to foreign affairs duties next year. That is since there is the matter of taking advantage of shrinking perimeter of American empire and consolidating regional economic blocks (Eurasian NAFTA-esque entities) to help make Kremlin friendly corporations even more profit. When it comes to choosing allies for domestic policy however, things will get a lot more complicated as Internet literate population has sensed blood in the water after dealing Kremlin a broken nose.
Continuing decline of American influence may briefly boost the Kremlin for a short time. Ultimately however it would further and even more thoroughly discredit current form of Putinism which is basically intensely trying to copy what American empire did right in the 1950s-1970s period (vibrant soft power, incredibly cold and restrained diplomacy, attracting foreign investment, social democratic architecture, allowing sufficient democratic input to bypass oligarchs, becoming example for elites in poorer parts of the world, building cutting edge energy infrastructure, etc). CPRF as ruling coalition partner may be the only realistic choice for United Russia in the next few years as American neoliberal model continues to nosedive (occupy the Kremlin anyone?).
As much as some Western dissidents would like to see the desires of their own ruling imperialist Kleptocrats tempered by those in Beijing and Moscow, it is not the sort of strategy where the little people ultimately win. Imperialism from DC being replaced by economic imperialism from Berlin, Moscow, or Beijing is not what humanity needs to preserve social stability in the 21st century.
P.S. Once again, regional militarism born out of imperial power vacuum is to be avoided at all costs.