However, not everyone in the fast-growing southern city seems to have gotten the message. “When does the election actually start?” Bogdan, a 21-year-old student asked. He hasn’t decided who he wants to cast his ballot for yet ‒ or if he’ll go to the polling station at all. “Life is beautiful here,” he declares, “it’s the best city in Russia.”
Winning over people like him is crucial for those looking to shake the Kremlin’s hold on power. With an average age several years younger than the rest of the country, the population of Krasnodar has soared as workers and young families move toward the coast in search of a better quality of life. The buzzing bars, restaurants and boutique shops in the center draw people in, while the outskirts echo with the sound of construction as new apartment blocks are put up to meet the demand. Many locals point out that necessary infrastructure isn’t always prepared to meet the needs of the growing population.
But if opposition activists are hoping Krasnodar’s demographics and relative prosperity mean their politics receive a warmer welcome, they are facing an uphill struggle. The south as a whole is a stronghold for the governing United Russia faction, and its candidates attracted nearly 60% of all ballots at the last legislative elections in 2016. Openly endorsed by President Vladimir Putin, the party of power is relying on residents in places like this to turn out in high numbers to again secure their super-majority in the State Duma, allowing constitutional reforms to be passed without borrowing votes from other groupings.
The signs in the lead-up to polling day haven’t been encouraging for United Russia, with indicators suggesting support has fallen well below where it was the last time around. Boris Makarenko, the president of the Moscow-based Center for Political Technologies, says that electoral mathematics “guarantee it a simple majority,” but that United Russia’s absolute hold on power could be called into doubt.
Opposing candidates smell blood, and none more so than the Communist Party (KPRF) ‒ the successor to the entity of the same name that ruled the Soviet Union from revolution to collapse. Its supporters say its popularity is now almost level with United Russia, and their sights are set on a big win this time around, exploiting frustrations over slow wage growth, rising prices and often-unpopular Covid-19 restrictions. The party’s rallying cry, plastered over billboards, has become “Russia needs a vaccine against capitalism.”
One of its candidates in the Krasnodar region, Alexander Safronov, explained he was equally optimistic about the party’s chances locally, given that the city has expanded rapidly and public services have struggled to keep up. “Neighborhoods are being built, but virtually no schools, kindergartens or polyclinics are under construction,” he said. “The very rich are getting richer, and the people are getting poorer.”