Let Them Talk

July 30, 2013
Alexei Navalny, the Chairman of the Opposition Coordinating Council, is running for Moscow Mayor | Photo: Alexander Miridonov/Kommersant

After significant uncertainty as to whether there would be political debates between the candidates for Moscow’s mayor, or whether the previous mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, would even participate, the rules for the debates have been published.

It should be noted that the article describes Sobyanin as the current mayor. Sobyanin, nearing the end of the term, resigned as mayor so that the elections would be held earlier to capitalize on his name recognition. – Ed.

The upcoming debates between the candidates running for the Mayor of Moscow will be held only in a group format, among all the six candidates at once. Duels between two candidates will not be allowed. That was the decision by Mosgorizbircom (Moscow City Electoral Commission), or MGIC, made after a drawing to distribute free air time and press spaces between the participants in the election campaign. With this format there will no match between Sergei Sobyanin, the acting Mayor, and Alexei Navalny, a famous blogger. Political analysts view such debates as the most important factor for the voters in the country’s capital. Besides, the debates will be pre-recorded, as the TV studios are equipped for a different format.


How Sergei Sobyanin waited for Mosgorisbircom decision

According to “Ъ”, the campaign office of Sergei Sobyanin is reluctant to participate in the debates to avoid a face-to-face meeting between the Acting Mayor and Alexei Navalny, prone to hard-hitting statements …

Each of the six candidates will get a total of about 60 minutes of free airtime on various Moscow radio and TV stations, which they can use from August 10 until September 7. Half of the allotted time can be spent by the candidates on their campaign messages, and the other half must be used for debates with the other players. MGIC ruled, that the debates should be held only in a group format. That is, all the six candidates must be present in the TV studio. With this format, all the participants will have to discuss “a particular topic that will be raised by journalists,” as Alexander Tochenov, a political analyst, points out. According to him, “technically those will be debates,” so each of the candidates will have a chance to offer their opinion on each of the issues, and only those issues will be selected that “are of concern to all Moscovites.” But there will be no “one-on-one between the two main opponents, Sergei Sobyanin and Alexei Navalny.”

All the participants are preparing to face the acting mayor. Perhaps this is why the election headquarters of Sergei Sobyanin still haven’t made up their mind as to whether he will participate in the debates. The requirements of the Moscow Election Code, in terms of debates, are quite strict. A candidate may choose not to participate, but in that case his air time can be used by the other candidates for their debates. The format of group debates with a predetermined topic should logically persuade Mr Sobyanin’s headquarters to ensure he does not opt out of this part of the campaign.

In addition to free air time, MGIC held a drawing to allocate premises for the candidates to meet with voters. Those will be used free of rent. The City of Moscow provided 12 such premises in 12 city districts for the period from August 12 to September 6.

During that period all six candidates will be able to hold 12 meetings with voters. The meetings will be scheduled from 7 to 10 pm. Weekend meetings are not envisaged.


How the “TV Center” channel didn’t find time for the candidates

The “TV Center” owned by the Moscow government is not among the TV channels that will provide free air time for campaigning…

Reportedly, the debates will be held in two stages: August 12, 14, and 16 on “Moskva24″ channel, August and 26, 28, and 30 on “Moskva Doverie.” That was announced at the drawing by Yuri Zhiganov, the spokesman for Moscow Media company. On Moskva24, debates will be broadcast at 9 pm, and on “Doverie” at 8 am. “There will be three rounds of debates on each of the two channels with the participation of all the candidates. Each round will last for one hour,” RIA Novosti reported quoting Mr. Zhiganov.

Yuri Zhiganov added that the debates will be pre-recorded, because any other format is not possible due to the studio’s limitations. Mr. Zhiganov noted that the date, time and order of recording will be finalized after August 5.

In addition, the candidates will get free air time on two radio stations: Moscow FM on August 19, 21, and 23; and Govorit Moskva (Moscow Speaking) on September 2, 4, and 6. The radio broadcasts of the debates will start at 8 pm, Moscow time.