The First Round of Debate Without Sergei Sobyanin

August 14, 2013
Фото: Александр Коряков / Коммерсантъ

The first round election debate between the candidates for mayor of Moscow was aired on “Moscow 24” channel. The debate was stormy at times, but the candidates kept playing their usual roles. Alexei Navalny (RPR-PARNAS) spoke about corruption and migration, and Sergei Mitrokhin (“Yabloko”) promised to liberate Moscow of a team of “newcomers,” i.e. out-of-town officials led by Acting Mayor Sergei Sobyanin. And Ivan Melnikov, a communist, unexpectedly named Oksana Dmitrieva, a State Duma deputy from “Just Russia,” as his prospective deputy.

Before the debate the candidates, all of them dressed in suits and ties, each drew an envelope with a number. Mikhail Degtyarev (LDPR) showed the audience the first slip with the number 3, and confidently declared that he was a “dominant center” in the most comfortable position. The leader of the “Just Russia” Nikolay Levichev got number five, while Ivan Melnikov happily showed the audience number one. “I think this will be my place in the elections,” the Yabloko leader Sergei Mitrokhin commented optimistically on his second place, and Alexei Navalny, who pulled out the number four, chose to remain silent. Waiting for the show to start, the candidates were talking next to the stage. Mr. Navalny was smiling silently, breaking the silence only to ask how tall Michael Degtyarev was, who, just like Navalny, towered over the others.

The candidates could not agree on some joint tactics against Mr. Sobyanin. The couldn’t even agree on who was the first to suggest not to waste time on each other, but to focus on criticizing the Acting Mayor. Ivan Melnikov told “Ъ” that he was the one who had come up with the initiative, and Sergei Mitrokhin immediately retorted that he was the first to write about it on Twitter. Mikhail Degtyarev promised to criticize everyone. “Problems have to be solved,” quietly continued Sergei Mitrokhin. “Well, we are not going to solve them on air,” reasoned Mikhail Degtyarev. The LDPR candidate asked if he could keep the envelope with the number. “Next time it will come in handy,” said Nikolai Levichev. “It is getting boring,” summed up Alexei Navalny.

Opening remarks by the candidates sounded very similar. Everyone was talking about the fact that they had an alternative plans for the development of Moscow and the necessary team who can implement those plans. Ivan Melnikov surprised everybody when naming his potential deputies, he mentioned Oksana Dmitrieva, a State Duma deputy from Just Russia, who recently sharply criticized Nikolai Levichev for improper campaigning. As to Sergei Mitrokhin, he promised to take Grigory Yavlinsky onto his team, a co-founder of Yabloko.

Ivan Melnikov declared that he is supported both by Moscovites and “such world-renowned scholars as Jaures Alferov.” He noted that the “capital has been taken over by mediocrities and bandits,” and he does not want Moscow to become “a city of bribes, kickbacks and illegal immigrants.” Sergei Mitrokhin said that the capital is run by a gang of “newcomers” led by Sergei Sobyanin, who has no respect for Moscow and is “raping” the city. He promised that he would not turn it into a “Sobyanin’s personal fief”. Alexei Navalny who addressed the audience as an “ordinary Moscovite,” spoke about his anti-corruption activities and his campaign. “I know what to do with corruption and illegal immigration in Moscow,” he added. Together with Sergei Mitrokhin, he criticized the “camp” for illegal immigrants set up in Golyanovo. The leader of Yabloko called it “useless and ostentatious,” and Mr. Navalny invited Sergei Sobyanin to Marino, where he resides and where in the evening, “you can go to the park and catch a thousand illegal immigrants.”

“To clean the city” was a promise by Mikhail Degtyarev that wasn’t anything new. According to him, Moscow “needs order, comfort and affluence” and the LDPR “sends a clear signal – the authorities need changes.” At the same time, he promised a “green light street” for the Moscovites, who travel to the countryside, and to equip every subway car with climate control and Wi-Fi. “I have an alternative program of Moscow development, based on the principle of social justice,” said Nikolai Levichev, after noting that he was “embarrassed to praise himself.”

Mr. Mitrokhin emphasized, that Sergei Sobyanin did not participate in the debate. And Mr. Melnikov said that Mr. Sobyanin has no chance to be elected if he refuses to debate with opponents. According to him, a possible explanation for Sobyanin’s refusal to debate is that it would be difficult for him to account for what he had done, because all the problems facing the capital are the result of the policies by the municipal authorities. By the end of the show the candidates were becoming less reserved. Nikolai Levichev asked Michael Degtyarev if he feels bad about being a “small-time political killer,” and told him “not to interrupt older people.”

The next debate will be held tomorrow on the same channel at 21:00. Altogether where will be 11 rounds, including on the radio.