Sergei Sobyanin Ready to Get By Without United Russia

June 10, 2013
Moscow City Hall

[Summary: Acting Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, a member of the Superior Council of United Russia, is expected to run for the mayoral elections on 8 September as an Independent. United Russia has explained this by the fact that “40 parties” “might want” to support him. The main potential rival to the acting mayor, Civic Platform Mikhail Prokhorov, has not yet announced if he will take part in elections. Instead of him, due to the issue of foreign assets, he party may nominate his sister, Irina Prokhorova, who successfully represented her brother during the presidential election–Kommersant]

Self-Nomination as a form of campaigning

Yesterday, Sergei Sobyanin held a consultation with Dmitry Medvedev, Chairman of United Russia, and Sergei Neverov, head of the party’s general council, on the subject of his nomination. After this, Mr. Neverov announced that “in Moscow, there is such a form as self-nomination,” but noted that “Moscow is hardly the only subject of the Russian Federation” where this is available. “We have to take into account that in the capital, seven dozen parties are registered, and perhaps 40 of them will want to support Sergei Semyonovich in the elections,” he explained to Kommersant. Earlier, United Russian members had spoken of the various forms of nomination, including something similar to what was used by Vladimir Putin in the presidential elections – nomination by United Russia with the support of the All-Russian Popular Front and civic organizations. Sources close to the mayor confirmed to Kommersant that most likely Mr. Sobyanin will run in the elections as a self-nominated candidate. “That’s how it is for now,” the source told Kommersant.

The formation of Sergei Sobyanin’s campaign staff headquarters has not yet officially begun – today the Moscow City Duma is setting the date for the elections. However, among officials in the capital, the only real chief of staff is said to be the Vice Mayor, Anastasiya Rakova, the head of Sobyanin’s staff, who is responsible for work with staff and administrators in the capital. Ms. Rakova told Kommersant that the question of who would lead the campaign staff had not yet been discussed: “My name or other names mentioned are no more than rumors.”

Let us note that the election campaigns of the previous mayor, Yury Luzhkov (who was elected three times – in 1996, 1999 and 2003), were essentially managed by his subordinates. As Konstantin Zatulin, former advisor to Mr. Luzhkov, told Kommersant, the main role was played by Deputy Mayor Anatoly Petrov (now a deputy in the Moscow City Duma).  “All the basic electoral threads were in his hands,” he noted. “In the same way, Sobyanin’s campaign will be run by his appointees, an entire class of Moscow bureaucrats.” Mr. Petrov told Kommersant that Yury Luzhkov had not created a special headquarters for the elections. “I was responsible for the elections, but the executive agencies were not involved in politics, we organized the training of electoral commissions and so on.

In the event that Sergei Sobyanin runs in the elections as an independent, he will have to gather 1 per cent of the signatures of Muscovites (about 80,000 people) and 6 per cent of the signatures of the municipal deputies of Moscow. Party nominees must gather only the signatures of the municipal deputies. There are almost 1,800 municipal deputies in Moscow altogether, and about 110 signatures are needed for the nomination. A source in United Russia told Kommersant that, among deputies in Old Moscow alone, there were 870 members of the party (out of 1,550), but there wasn’t data for New Moscow yet. According to the estimate of Mikhail Velmakin, the coordinator of an informal council of municipal deputies, there are about 400-500 independent deputies in the capital, including members of parliamentary parties and independents. The Communist Party of Russian Federation (CPRF) has 204 deputies in 108 districts; Just Russia has 123 in 68, the parties reported. That is, out of the opposition, only the Communists confidently overcome the municipal filter for now.

The candidates who do not collect the necessary number of signatures are now actively looking for the support of deputies. Thus, Sergei Mitrokhin, leader of Yabloko, told Kommersant that the party has 35-50 supporters in the municipal meetings, and talks are underway with other parties about assistance – for example, with Democratic Elections, which has about 15 supporters.

From Galina Khovanskaya to Andrei Lugovoi

The list of opponents of Sergei Sobyanin isn’t clear yet. Mikhail Prokhorov may decline to take part in the campaign because of the issue of foreign assets. Tatyana Kosobokova, head of the Civic Platform press service, told Kommersant that “lawyers have essentially completed the work of reviewing Mikhail Prokhorov’s assets; however, a decision about who precisely will represent the party in the Moscow mayoral elections has not been taken.” The most likely candidate named by the party yesterday, if Prokhorov does not run in the elections, is his sister, Irina Prokhorova, Editor-in-Chief of the publishing house New Literary Review. “There’s a 90 per cent chance she will be the candidate,” said one party member. “Everything will depend on a decision regarding legal questions related to the foreign assets of Mikhail Prokhorov,” Stanislav Kucher, a member of the party’s civic committee told Kommersant. “If Mikhail Prokhorov is unable to run on the ballot, Civic Platform will not run a nominal candidate on the principle of ‘just to take part,’ but a strong candidate capable of winning.”

Ms. Prokhorova, who was in New York yesterday, did not answer questions conveyed through an aide on her possible participation in the elections. Irina Prokhorova appeared in the political arena during the 2012 presidential campaign as Mikhail Prokhorov’s authorized representative. As a result, her participation in televised debates with the movie director Nikita Mikhalkov, representative of Vladimir Putin, was called the only “strong move” of the businessman’s campaign. At the end of the debates, Mr. Mikhalkov acknowledged that he would vote for her if she took part in the elections. In Mikhail Prokhorov’s party, his sister is responsible for the development of cultural policy.

Members of Civic Platform plan on discussing the question of the mayoral elections with Mikhail Prokhorov on June 10th at a meeting of the committee. Mr. Kucher told Kommersant that the party leader is holding consultations regarding the mayoral elections with “many people” in the party. Aleksandr Lyubov, a member of the party’s political committee, believes that the party “still has a lot of time” and “can wait” to make the decision.

The Duma parties have not made decisions on candidates, either. The candidacy of Andrei Klychkov, head of the CPRF faction  in the Moscow City Duma, is under review, as are State Duma deputies Valery Rashkin, Nikolai Gubenko, Ivan Melnikov, Vadim Kumin and Vladimir Rodin.

At Just Russia, possible mayoral candidates named include State Duma Deputy Aleksandr Ageyev, leader of the Moscow section, and Galina Khovanskaya, head of the Duma Housing Policy Committee.  A source in the party told Kommersant that Mr. Ageyev had a recognition factor in Moscow of a bit more than 15 per cent, but Ms. Khovanskaya had 23 per cent. Galina Khovanskaya claims she does not want to run for mayor. “It is impossible to beat the administrative resources [of the incumbent], and to waste time in order to pull in 10-18 per cent makes no sense. Unless the party says that this is completely necessary,” she said. Potential candidates include Sergei Mironov, leader of the Just Russia Duma faction, and Aleksandr Tarnavsky, a State Duma Deputy.

Yaroslav Nilov, a member of the superior council of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), told Kommersant that his possible candidacy was being discussed in the party, and also that of three deputies – Andrei Lugovoi, Vladimir Ovsyannikov and Sergei Kalashnikov. The conference of the Moscow section of the LDPR will take place next week—Mr. Nilov named Andrei Lugovoi as the most likely candidate.