Rising federal power won’t help political competition in the regions. Incumbents, often with Kremlin support, have become adept at using local election commissions to disqualify challengers for faulty nominating petitions, erroneous financial disclosure statements, or other real or spurious code violations. Alternatively, challengers may be bought off in political deals that deprive voters of a say.

To a long list that includes Rostov, Kursk, Primorsky, Chukotka North Ossetia-Alaniya and Sakha-Yakutia, add Lipetsk. Two months before election day in this oblast 300 miles from Moscow, incumbent Governor Oleg Korolev agreed to stop slandering challenger Vladimir Lisin, and Lisin agreed to drop out of the race. Press reports say Korolev admitted that the deal was the Kremlin’s idea. Besides, “confrontation” frightens investors. It’s bad for business.