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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW2446 2006-03-13 16:28 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

DE RUEHMO #2446/01 0721628
O 131628Z MAR 06

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 002446 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/10/2016 
Classified By: Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs Kirk 
Augustine.  For reasons 1.4 (b/d). 
1. (C) SUMMARY.  In regional legislative elections in eight 
of Russia's regions on March 12, the pro-Kremlin United 
Russia party appears to have scored a clear victory.  Four 
political parties ran in all eight elections, while Rodina 
and some smaller parties were kept off the ballot in some of 
those regions.  Preliminary reports indicate that voter 
turnout was low, with a significant "against all" vote.  The 
administration's active role in removing parties from the 
electoral races and its use of administrative resources 
indicate its continued efforts to limit opposition gains and 
control the membership of regional legislatures, which 
recently have been granted the right to nominate governors. 
2. (U) On March 12 regional legislative elections took place 
in the Adygeya and Altay Republics, the Kaliningrad, Kursk, 
Kirov, Nizhniy Novgorod, and Orenburg Oblasts, and 
Khanty-Mansy Autonomous Okrug.  Two State Duma by-elections 
were also held, as were local self-government elections in 60 
regions.  This "super Sunday" of regional races resulted from 
last year's amendment to federal election legislation 
consolidating regional and municipal elections to two voting 
days, the second Sunday in March and the second Sunday in 
October.  Most regions require 20-25 percent voter turnout in 
order to validate an election, and parties must exceed a 5-7 
percent threshold (depending on the region) to gain 
representation in a regional legislature.  Only four parties, 
United Russia (YR), the Communist Party (KPRF), the 
Liberal-Democratic Party (LDPR), and the Russian Party of 
Pensioners, succeeded in registering for all eight 
legislative elections. 
3. (SBU) Regional legislative races long drew minimal 
attention, given that governors were directly elected and 
usually controlled their legislatures.  With the elimination 
of direct gubernatorial elections, however, those 
legislatures gained the power to vote on whether to approve 
of the president's gubernatorial nomination, giving the 
regional legislative races more at least formal significance. 
 The latest change, giving regional legislatures the power to 
nominate governors, further enhances the significance, or at 
least the profile, of the regional races. 
4. (U) According to preliminary results from the elections, 
United Russia (YR) received a plurality of votes in all eight 
regions where legislative races were held, with results 
ranging from a high of 58 percent in Khantiy-Mansy Autonomous 
Okrug to a low of 27 percent in Altay Republic.  KPRF placed 
a strong second in six of the eight regions, receiving 
between 11 and 18 percent of the vote.  LDPR passed the 
voting threshold in five of the eight regions.  The Party of 
Pensioners, although competing in all eight regions, passed 
the threshold in only three of them.  The Union of Right 
Forces (SPS) and Yabloko failed to pass the threshold in any 
of the regions.  The "against all" option was widely used, 
garnering 13 percent in Khanty-Mansy Autonomous Okrug and 
over eight percent in Orenburg Oblast.  Rodina was kept off 
the ballot in all but one of the races; in Altay Republic it 
captured over ten percent of the vote, finishing second after 
5. (U) Aleksandr Veshnyakov, the Chairman of the Central 
Election Commission (CEC), announced the results at a March 
13 press conference, stating that despite the "convincing 
victory" of YR, all regional legislatures would have 
representation of three to six parties.  This, Veshnyakov 
argued, precluded the emergence of a one-party political 
system in Russia. 
6. (C) Preliminary results demonstrated YR's continuing 
strength as the country's ruling party.  One of the biggest 
complaints by smaller parties against YR was its widespread 
use of "administrative resources" in the regions.  Many YR 
party lists in the regions were headed by governors, who 
could throw the resources at their disposal behind YR 
candidates to more effectively gather financing and 
advertise.  In Kaliningrad Oblast, for instance, Consulate 
St. Petersburg noted that Governor Georgiy Boos exerted 
considerable influence during election preparations to ensure 
MOSCOW 00002446  002 OF 003 
a YR victory and to prevent Kremlin-unfriendly figures from 
winning seats.  Lilya Shibanova of the Golos election 
monitoring organization told us that she expects YR to 
continue to strengthen during this year's regional elections. 
 As more YR candidates succeed in reaching the regional 
legislatures, no strong opposition will be able to develop, 
Shibanova predicted. 
7. (C) Perhaps the most noteworthy development of this set of 
elections was regional el
ection commissions' refusal to 
register parties that the Kremlin appeared to see as a 
potential threat.  Most strikingly, regional election 
commissions banned Rodina in 7 out of 8 of the legislative 
elections.  The only exception came in Altay, where Rodina 
successfully appealed the electoral commission's decision and 
was reinstalled on the ballot.  Regional election commissions 
removed parties based on alleged violations, such as 
campaigning before the designated start date and technical 
violations on signature lists.  Rodina was not the only 
target of the election commissions, with several commissions 
removing a record number of parties.  Nizhniy Novgorod's 
commission disallowed six parties, while Adygeya disallowed 
8. (C) Rodina's absence from almost all of the May 12 races 
led many observers to note that the Kremlin is showing its 
dissatisfaction with Dmitriy Rogozin, the party's leader. 
Moscow Carnegie Center analyst Nikolay Petrov told us that 
although initially created to help the Kremlin, Rodina had 
become too independent and popular.  Rogozin began to express 
his own views, rather than those scripted by the Kremlin. 
The Kremlin needed an "opposition" party that it could 
control.  Many believe that if Rodina replaces Rogozin at its 
March 25 party congress, it will have a chance to regain the 
Kremlin's favor.  Likewise, Consulate St. Petersburg noted to 
us that the People's Party in Kaliningrad was not allowed on 
the ballot, likely due to its party leader, Igor Rudnikov, 
who had boosted his party's popularity in the oblast to 15 
percent while ignoring the regional administration and the 
9. (C) Some observers had predicted that KPRF and LDPR would 
receive the benefits of Rodina's absence from the ballot. 
Indeed, the Communists took a strong second to YR in several 
of the March 12 races.  Maksim Dianov of the Institute of 
Regional Problems suggested that the new schedule of regional 
elections would also help those two parties.  On the one 
hand, he argued, it would gradually funnel "Presidential 
opposition" into the KPRF camp.  It was also a gift to LDPR, 
in Dianov's view, likely boosting that party close to or over 
the voting threshold in many regions by allowing it to pick 
up votes that would otherwise have gone to Rodina.  LDPR did 
manage to gain representation in at least five regional 
legislatures in the March 12 races, although it is too early 
to tell the extent to which Rodina's exclusion affected the 
10. (C) The March 12 races were also closely watched with 
regard to the democratic parties, particularly given the 
relatively successful alliance of SPS and Yabloko in the 
December Moscow election.  While neither SPS nor Yabloko met 
the voting threshold in any of the regional elections, their 
decision to split the regions up - only running against one 
another in one region in order not to harm each other's 
chances - signaled increased coordination.  Petrov commented 
to us that the democrats had demonstrated pragmatism, which 
he saw as an encouraging sign.  Shibanova, however, told us 
the democrats still did not look strong enough to effectively 
compete in the 2007 parliamentary elections. 
11. (C) To many observers, the low turnout and the relatively 
high percentage of "against all" votes (which, according to 
press reports, averaged 10 percent in the eight regions) 
suggest continued voter dissatisfaction.  The absence of 
Rodina may have enhanced that unhappiness.  Consulate 
Yekaterinburg noted that in Khantiy-Mansy Autonomous Okrug, 
the "against all" option garnered over 13 percent, putting it 
in second place behind YR.  Petrov predicted that voter 
disappointment, reflected in the high "against all" vote on 
MOSCOW 00002446  003 OF 003 
March 12, could eventually translate into some form of social 
protest.  According to Petrov, local electoral commissions 
never before played such an active role in eliminating 
parties from the ballot, and that result in a backlash among 
12. (C) The March 12 elections produced no surprises and 
consolidated United Russia's control of regional 
legislatures.  Prior elections had featured other forms of 
"administrative resources."  This time around, to an 
unprecedented extent they took the form of regional election 
commissions eliminating parties perceived as unfriendly to 
the Kremlin from running, with Rodina being the hardest hit. 
That may have evoked some popular discontent, but if the 
Kremlin saw regional elections as a trial run for the 2007-08 
national election cycle, it must be generally satisfied with 
the results. 


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