Staunton, May 26 – Vladimir Putin’s party of power, United Russia, failed to win a single seat in elections to the 15-member city council of Baltiysk in Kaliningrad, an indication of just how soft support for his party and possibly for him is — and of what steps Russian opposition groups may be able to take to win elections where they occur elsewhere.
The Baltiysk surprise is dominating much of the Moscow media today, given that United Russia did not win a single mandate. Instead, 12 independent candidates appear to have won through as well as one each from Just Russia, the Patriots of Russia and the Communists of Russia.
In a commentary in Novyye Izvestiya, Yekaterina Dyatlovskaya says that experts with whom she has spoken explain United Russia’s failure as the result of high levels of participation, scandals in the registration of candidates, and conflicts among the city and regional elites.
Almost half of the registered voters – 47.77 percent – took part, a level of participation that Just Russia’s Pavel Fedorov said was unheard of in recent elections there and that overwhelmed the ability of the party of power to win on the basis of administrative measures alone. At the same time, he said, he was surprised that that party did not win at least one seat.
Another explanation for the outcome, he suggested, was the scandal which broke out when officials refused to register 78 out of 139 candidates. That action was so gross, he implied, that many local residents and businesses took the occasion of the election to register their anger at official high-handedness.
A third explanation for the outcome was provided by Rostislav Turovsky of the Center for Political Technologies. He pointed out that there are serious differences within United Russia itself and that the regional boss may be entirely happy that the city boss suffered this embarrassing loss.
According to Grigory Melkonyants, of the Golos vote monitoring organization, all sides in the election used “doubtful technologies,” but this had the effect of cancelling each of them out. The voting itself was relatively good. He said that now the Russian opposition must “study the experience of Baltiysk in order to learn how to defeat [the powers’] administrative resource.”