Elections in a „managed democracy“ regime help to sustain the spectre of legitimacy and thus create a better image of the state among its own citizens and other nations abroad; by changing electoral rules (and by other practices related to elections) politicians try to secure their place among the current and future political elite which gets to rule; elections also provide some kind of feedback from society which is somewhat altered by the practices of Kremlin, and not reflecting the real interests and demands of the citizenry.
Let's talk about legitimacy first. As the Russian state tries to increase its international regime and image, it is in its interest to „practice“ at least some of the democratic institutions to a certain degree. According to the Russian constitutional basis all the democratic elements are in place, but since Russia is a country „ruled by law“, these prerogatives try to mask the true actions of the ruling elite. Fair and free elections are one of ...view middle of the document...
In Russia elections are affected by the ruling elite, by changing the electoral laws and practices, eliminating competition, severing personality connections, centralising, and rising tresholds - this role of the elections is largely eliminated. It can be explained as the „echo chamber“ effect. By increasing the powers of the ruling elite in choosing people who are loyal to Kremlin for various state positions on every level of government, which are passive and inefficient, makes the link between the citizens and Kremlin thinner still. Since the state structures are penetrated by people close and obedient to Kremlin, they cannot be relied upon to report objectively the concerns and interests of the people, and this only reinforces the way of thinking Kremlin leaders already posses. This results in adopting policies which may be on a verge of starting colletive action. This might prove as a huge handicap to Kremlin since it may cause pasivity and inadequate actions which would be slow to adress the situation efficiently. Situation like this happened in 2005 when the benefits system changed and Kremlin had to compromise on some of its main parts of the legal act.
The last part of my argument is connected with the desire of the ruling elite to stay in office. It is associated with the same set of practices mentioned above (centralization, reduction of opposition, etc.). The fact is that this desire has been fulfilled and the trend since 2000 supports this claim. The number of parties has been largely reduced by various measures; only members who get on the party list can be elected; various state institutions associated with elections, like Central Elections Commision (which is headed by an acquiantance of Putin since 2007), lost almost all of their impartiality thus helping the incumbents in reaching their goals.
Elections in Russia strongly serve the interests of the politicians. It is questionable how long this will last and when the (non-)connection between Kremlin and the population of Russia will foster conflict.
Petrov, N., Lipman, M., & Hale, H. E. (2010). Overmanaged democracy in Russia: governance implications of hybrid regimes. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Silicki V. (2009, April). Tools of Autocracy. Journal of Democracy , 20(2), 42-46