After holding national-level elections for parliament in late 2007 and president in early 2008, no major contests are officially on the horizon in Russia. Nevertheless, 2009 has already featured interesting voting opportunities.
The death of the Russian Orthodox Church's Patriarch, Alexey II, prompted an election of his successor. Similar to the election of the Roman Catholic Pope, the voting procedure involves a limited selectorate primarily consisting of high-ranking Church officials (in this case, the 702-member Local Council that includes "bishops, priests, monks, and laymen"). In contrast to papal elections, the election featured a campaign that turned negative. In addition, the Local Council cast secret ballots with journalists present (only the deliberations were closed). Three candidates contested the position (although one withdrew before the final vote), and Metropolitan Kirill won 508 votes (72%). While elections of religious figures provide limited opportunities for analysis, especially because most of the data are not publicly available, some interesting work has been done (e.g., Colomer and McLean (1998), an article that applies social choice theory to early papal elections).
Some of Russia's regions are also holding local elections, including Kostroma and Bryansk. Svobodanews.ru has posted interesting commentary.
Sources for the Patriarch elections:
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Photo courtesy of Reuters, Alexander Natruskin, January 25, 2009.