This week’s headline concerning Russia’s elections has focused on how United Russia has lost power, or at least has struggled to maintain its power. The most obvious example is in Moscow, where United Russia incumbent Sergei Sobyanin clings to an official vote count that, if it holds, would barely prevent a runoff election. All the while, opposition candidate Alexei Navalny claims that he has obtained 35/6% of the vote, though most others put his numbers closer to 28%. Still, Sobyanin’s lead and Navalny’s total are both at least ten points different than what most experts expected – a sign that United Russia is weakening?
At the same time, United Russia may lose a mayor in, Yekaterinburg, Russia’s 4th largest city, where there are already widespread reports that United Russia’s candidate has conducted widespread fraud.
However, the picture is just not that simple. Russian politics rarely is. In Moscow’s suburbs, for instance, Vorobyov has won nearly 80% of the votes.
It’s worth noting the existence of the “municipal filter,” mentioned in the article below. Simply put, candidates for office need to receive signatures from existing deputies. This process usually precludes serious opposition contenders. In the case of Navalny, it was widely believed that Putin encouraged United Russia officials to sign off on Navalny’s candidacy in order to make the predicted defeat of the opposition candidate look legitimate. – Ed.
United Russia candidate Andrei Vorobyov obtained nearly 80% of the votes in elections for the head of Moscow Region [the suburbs of Moscow], the Moscow Region Elections Commission reported. Analyst Andrei Mironov commented on the situation for hosts Aleksey Korneyev and Darya Polygayeva.
The rest of the candidates received less than 10% each. Konstantin Cheremisov, the candidate from the Communist Party of the Russian Federation took second place; Gennady Gudkov from Yabloko was in third place. According to the Moscow Region Elections Commission, turnout was about 40%.
DP: To what extent was Vorobyov’s victory expected? I understand that taking into account his rivals, everything was entirely expected.
AM: Vorobyov’s victory was entirely expected, just as the victory of candidates of those regions where gubernatorial elections were held under the new scheme of applying the municipal filter. Unfortunately, these elections are reminiscent of the elections of 2011 and 2007. Despite the victory of the candidate Vorobyov, and the candidate Orlov in Vladimir Region — and everywhere where gubernatorial elections were held — when the candidates get a percentage close to 80%, that always provokes mistrust in society. Always.
AK: The Communists have long been strong in Vladimir Region. I didn’t really follow Vladimir Region this year.
AM: It was about the same percent there as with Vorobyov.
AK: So about 80%, taking into account that Orlov is virtually unknown in the region, he is a recent protégé of the Kremlin, he himself is not from Vladimir, but I think is from somewhere in the Far East?
AK: Yes, from the Jewish Autonomous Republic [Birobidzhan].
AK: But even so, 80%. What do you think, why is it that no one from the opposition was able to oppose them?
DP: I wonder why Gudkov has such a low percent? He was beaten by the candidate from the CPRF, who, to be frank, was not the most famous politician from the Communist Party, and Gudkov at least is a representative of the opposition in this case.
AM: The problem is that in the Moscow suburbs, the well-known technique for elections to governor was employed: when one vivid candidate is presented; when the media focuses on one candidate; when less weighty rivals are shown opposing him, except for Gudkov. Given the situation in Gudkov’s campaign headquarters and the lack of funding for his campaign, he could not wage a fight on an equal basis with such a heavy-weight as Andrei Vorobyov. Moreover, the opposition parties could not cover all the election districts with observers.