06MOSCOW11137, UNITED RUSSIA SEEKS MAJORITY IN OCTOBER 8

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06MOSCOW11137 2006-10-04 12:44 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO9429
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #1137/01 2771244
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 041244Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3396
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 MOSCOW 011137 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/RUS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/02/2016 
TAGS: PGOV KDEM PINR RS
SUBJECT: UNITED RUSSIA SEEKS MAJORITY IN OCTOBER 8 
CHUVASHIYA ELECTIONS 
 
Classified By: POL M/C Alice G. Wells.  Reasons:  1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
------- 
Summary 
------- 
 
1. (C) A September 28 - 29 visit to Chuvashiya in the run-up 
to the October 8 State Council elections found: 
 
-- five of the Republic's twenty-two parties on the ballot, 
with a sixth --the Party of Pensioners-- denied registration, 
and joining the Party of Life in supporting Rodina's quest to 
cross the 7 percent threshold; 
 
-- United Russia well ahead of its competitors, with party 
members predicting it will capture more than 50 percent of 
the votes, and others alleging that only fraud will make that 
possible; 
 
-- evidence of pressure placed on "Patriots of Russia" 
candidates to withdraw from races and allegations of a 
Watergate-like campaign headquarters break-in; 
 
-- the media deck stacked in favor of United Russia; 
 
-- the Republic apparently awash in money from the 
Stabilization Fund for building roads, reforming education, 
improving healthcare, and making natural gas available to all 
Chuvashiya residents; 
 
-- and awash with emissaries from Moscow reminding voters 
that it is United Russia that has made those improvements 
possible.  End summary. 
 
--------------------------- 
Framework for the Elections 
--------------------------- 
 
2. (U) The Republic of Chuvashiya will stage elections to its 
State Council on October 8.  With this election, the size of 
the Council will be reduced from 73 to 44 members and, for 
the first time in Chuvashiya, twenty-two seats will be filled 
by candidates running on party lists, and twenty-two deputies 
will be chosen from single-mandate lists.  Because the date 
of Chuvashiya's election was fixed before the adoption, in 
summer 2006, of amendments to the Federal law on "The Basic 
Guarantees of Electoral Rights and Rights of Citizens of the 
Russian Federation to Participate in the Elections," 
Chuvashiya's voters will still be able to check the "against 
all" box on October 8.  The Chuvashiya Republic's electoral 
law was adopted only on June 14, 2006, which gave parties and 
candidates intending to participate in the elections scant 
time to adjust to changes in the electoral process. 
Important features of the Republic's electoral law: 
 
-- minimum voting age:  21 years 
-- voter participation:  a minimum of 20 percent of all 
registered voters for the election to be valid 
-- observers from registered NGOs permitted 
-- percentage of votes necessary for party to be represented 
in the Council:  7 
-- "closed" party lists, i.e., voters cannot indicate their 
preferences for candidates on party lists 
 
------------------------ 
Parties on the Sidelines 
------------------------ 
 
3. (C) Five of Chuvashiya's registered 22 parties will 
participate in the election.  The registration petition of a 
sixth party, the Russian Party of Pensioners (RPP), was 
rejected by the Republic's Central Electoral Commission 
(CEC).  The CEC found that RPP's preparation of its financial 
documents and contributions to its election fund had violated 
the law. According to the CEC the RPP had 1.4 million rubles 
more in its accounts than indicated on documents submitted to 
the CEC.  In addition the CEC found that the RPP had accepted 
a contribution of 1.5 million rubles from the fund "Narodnoe 
dostoyanie" when the law permits a maximum contribution from 
any one organization of no more than 1.05 million rubles. The 
RPP contended that in its documents it had mistakenly 
indicated contributions from two organizations when it had in 
fact received its total contribution from three funds.  It 
initially announced that it would appeal the CEC's decision, 
but did not do so.  Poloff was told that driving the RPP's 
decision to stand down was a decision made over its head in 
Moscow by leaders of the incipient Russian Party of 
Life-Rodina-RPP alliance to have Rodina be the standard 
bearer in the October 8 Chuvashiya election. 
 
MOSCOW 00011137  002 OF 005 
 
 
 
4. (C) The decision of the Russian Party of Life's (RPL) 
Moscow leadership to sit out the Chuvashiya contest appears 
to have been very unpopular in Cheboksary.  RPL's Chuvashiya 
Deputy Chairman Mikhail Gorbatin ruefully told Poloff that 
the order from Moscow had come at the eleventh hour, and did 
not allow some of the potential RPL candidates to be folded 
into Rodina's list. Gorbatin invited Poloff to ask him whom 
he would vote for October 8.  "I will cross them all out," he 
said bitterly. Also not participating is the Agrarian Party 
of Russia (APR).  The APR has strong support in Chuvashiya's 
regions, but decided at its eighth extraordinary conference 
not to field candidates, as there was a need for "political 
consolidation" behind United Russia and its leading 
candidate, Chuvashiya's President Nikolai Fedorov. 
 
--------------------------------- 
Patriots of Russia Under Pressure 
--------------------------------- 
 
5. (C) The CEC's treatment of party-affiliat
ed individual 
candidacies seemed generally evenhanded, with the exception 
of the party Patriots of Russia (PR). As expected, all 
twenty-two of the Kremlin's United Russia candidates were 
registered.  The Communist Party (KPRF) elected to field 19 
candidates and all were registered, while the Liberal 
Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) lost one of its 21 
candidates to the CEC.  In contrast, the CEC declined to 
register six of the PR's 21 nominees.  In a September 29 
conversation, PR Chairman Vladislav Soldatov alleged to 
Embassy that his party was under relentless pressure because 
of its unwillingness to defer to United Russia.  The 
authorities had intimidated several PR candidates.  Among 
them: 
 
-- Vadim Bulankin, who was found by the CEC to have 
understated his income by 30635 rubles, and has withdrawn; 
-- Aleksandr Samakin who, although registered by the CEC, has 
withdrawn because of threats; 
-- Roman Kalyaev, who was told he would lose his job at 
Chuvashautodor (a republic-owned road construction firm) if 
he remained in the race; 
-- (FNU) Golgov, who was told he would lose his job as the 
Director of Svyaztekhnika, and withdrew without protest. 
 
6. (C) Soldatov averred that appealing CEC decisions to deny 
registration was a fruitless endeavor.  The judge of the 
court to which such decisions are appealed, he said, is Rais 
Gafyrov who for his services in past elections had been given 
an apartment with a European-quality renovation and a salary 
of 90 thousand rubles per year. 
 
7. (C) In a September 28 meeting, CEC Chairwoman Lyudmila 
Linik insisted that there had been no problems with the 
electoral process.  She traced the failure of a large number 
of individual-mandate candidates to register to miscellaneous 
violations of the electoral law. In addition, she 
acknowledged, a large number of candidates had withdrawn 
before completing the registration process.  (Of the 179 
candidates who announced their intention to register, 119 
were registered.) (Linik is widely believed here to have been 
awarded a very nice home on the fringes of the city for her 
work in arranging the results of the last presidential 
elections.) 
 
8. (C) Also under pressure, according to other sources in 
Cheboksary, are PR candidates Aleksandr Kudryashov, the 
Director of Chuvasenrakhmal.  Kudryashov allegedly had been 
offered a large sum of money to withdraw, and young people in 
his campaign were regularly stopped by the local police. The 
pressure on PR candidate Yuriy Nikiforov seems to be 
increasing, as polls show him neck-and-neck with the head of 
the administration of Vurnarskiy region (FNU) Kuzmin. 
Finally, on September 23 PR candidate Vladimir Sudakov, the 
General Director of the newspaper Chuvashiya Komsomolskaya 
Pravda, in responding to reports that his campaign workers 
were being harassed, wounded a by-stander with a rubber 
bullet. Soldatov alleged that Sudakov was provoked by "thugs 
hired by the local (Chuvashiya) administration." Police are 
investigating the incident.  Interestingly, the incident was 
the only reporting about opposition campaign efforts 
published in the local media during Poloff's visit to 
Cheboksary. 
 
9. (C) Soldatov further alleged that PR campaign headquarters 
had been ransacked during the week of September 18.  A group 
of armed men had entered the premises, located in a 
Cheboksary suburb, at night, tied up the watchman, opened the 
safe, and removed key PR documents.  When Soldatov arrived, 
 
MOSCOW 00011137  003 OF 005 
 
 
he discovered his headquarters swarming with higher-ranking 
police officers, who questioned him.  Soldatov alleged that 
the protocol he was made to sign could be used as a pretext 
hold him for questioning and, possibly, detain him at any 
point during the campaign.  He insisted the break-in was 
"political" in nature; noting that none of electronic 
equipment had been stolen.  Soldatov's account of events was 
broadly confirmed by local Kommersant correspondent Oleg 
Eruslanov. 
 
10. (C) Soldatov also alleged that the Chuvashiya 
Administration was "stacking" the twenty-two regional 
electoral commissions.  In his version, participants from the 
more pliable parties --the KPRF, LDPR, Rodina-- had agreed to 
allow United Russia to staff the regional commissions.  The 
quid pro quo, said Soldatov, was a guarantee from the 
Chuvashiya administration that the KPRF would win 15 - 17 
percent of the vote (as opposed to the 10 percent generally 
expected), and that the LDPR would cross the 7 percent 
barrier to representation in the State Council.  Eruslanov 
and local Regnum journalist Valentina Andreyeva could not 
confirm Soldatov's allegations, but agreed they tracked 
broadly with trends in Chuvashiya. 
 
--------------------------- 
Access to Media:  A Problem 
--------------------------- 
 
11. (C) The campaign in Chuvashiya officially began 28 days 
before the October 8 elections.  Per regulation, each of the 
registered political parties was allotted one hour of airtime 
on each of the regional channels during that period.  Each 
single-mandate candidate was given 15 minutes of airtime. 
Candidates, especially from PR, agreed that the required 
broadcast media access was available, but argued that access 
of opposition parties was confined to weekday mornings or 
afternoons, when much of the voting population did not watch 
television. A list of broadcast slots posted in the CEC 
suggested there might be some basis for that allegation.  It 
showed that PR airtime on Radio Rossii for the dates 
September 13, 22, 25; October 3, 6 as scheduled between 1000 
and 1030.  A second list of PR airtime on Cheboksary 
Television for the dates September 14, 21, 26; October 2, 5 
allotted the party slots in the 1600 - 1630 timeframe. 
Regnum correspondent Valentina Andreyeva alleged that media 
exposure was less important to candidates in this election. 
In fact, she said, many candidates see the local television 
networks as compromised, and prefer not to be associated with 
them.  Eruslanov suggested that candidates avoid television 
because "they have nothing to say."  An official at the CEC 
noted that those candidates garnering less than 2 percent of 
the vote have to reimburse the cost of their airtime, and 
suggested that could be a deterrent for some. 
 
12. (C) It was impossible, during Poloff's brief visit to 
Cheboksary to evaluate the treatment of parties and 
candidates by the print media.  A survey of some the 
newspapers --"Sovetskaya Chuvashiya," "Cheboksarie Novosti," 
and "Molodezhnyj Kur'er"-- indicated that the comings and 
goings of Russia's and Chuvashiya's officialdom received most 
of the coverage, although "Kur'er" did feature postage 
stamp-sized ads for KPRF (with a portrait of Che Guevara) and 
LDPR on its third page.  Party posters were on display around 
the city but, again, PR propaganda seemed to be largely 
absent.  A survey of the city
's central avenue, Karl Marx 
Street, found many posters for United Russia; fewer for LDPR 
and the KPRF; and none for Rodina and PR. 
 
--------------- 
Aid from Moscow 
--------------- 
 
13. (C) Although the KPRF had traditionally been strong in 
Chuvashiya, it has lost its luster, and observers peg its 
current support to pensioners.  KPRF Central Committee 
Chairman Gennadiy Zyuganov has made an effort to reverse that 
trend this time around with a September 26-27 visit to 
Cheboksary and Chuvashiya's regions.  (Zyuganov was widely 
criticized by Chuvashiya communists for spending only several 
hours in Cheboksary three years ago during the Duma election 
campaign.)  At a press conference, Zyuganov predicted that 
the KPRF would win one-third of the votes, and publicly aired 
the possibility of electoral fraud on October 8.  LDPR leader 
Vladimir Zhirinovskiy will have made two trips to Chuvashiya 
before election day.  With much of LDPR's local popularity 
tied to his flamboyant personality, frequent visits are key 
to the party's efforts to cross the 7 percent threshold. 
Within the last two weeks, United Russia has sent the Duma's 
International Affairs Committee Chairman Konstantin Kosachev, 
 
MOSCOW 00011137  004 OF 005 
 
 
Deputy Director of the Duma Vyacheslav Volodin, and Chairman 
of the Duma's Regional Affairs Committee Viktor Grishin to 
Cheboksary. 
 
-------------------------------- 
Ambitious Goal for United Russia 
-------------------------------- 
 
14. (C) It was widely believed by Cheboksary interlocutors of 
all stripes that United Russia (YR) had been set the goal 
--by Moscow-- of capturing at least 50 percent of the votes 
on October 8. In a September 29 conversation, YR Chuvashiya 
Deputy Chairman (and Chairman of Cheboksary's Executive 
Committee) Vladimir Midukov agreed.  Midukov's prediction was 
seconded by Russian Party of Life (RPL) Deputy Chairman 
Mikhail Gorbatin.  Some disinterested observers, while 
acknowledging that YR and its administrative resources 
offered it an unassailable advantage even in a free and fair 
election, believed that winning 50 percent of the votes would 
be impossible without electoral fraud.  Other observers 
believed that outright fraud would be avoided, but that the 
republic's rural voters would be "told" whom to vote for, as 
would employees of key factories.  Other observers added that 
the absence of RPP, the Union of Right Forces, and Yabloko 
from the ballot meant less competition for centrist voters, 
and more votes in the YR bank on election day.  Also cited 
were the long coattails of President Putin, who remains 
genuinely popular in Chuvashiya. (Opinions about Chuvashiya 
President Fedorov are decidedly more mixed.)  The consensus 
among observers was that, in a fair election YR would garner 
20 - 25 percent of the vote, KPRF: 10 - 12 percent, LDPR: 10 
percent, PR: 7 - 10, and Rodina:  less than 7 percent. 
(According to the news agency Regnum, in the 2003 Duma 
elections YR received 38 percent of the votes, the KPRF - 17 
percent, the LDPR - 8 percent, the Agrarian Party - 7 
percent, and Rodina - 5 percent.) 
 
15. (C) In addition to the sheer statistical difficulties, 
further complicating YR's attempt to win 50 percent of the 
popular vote will be rivalries within the party.  According 
to observers, this rivalry manifests itself in two ways: 
 
-- a number of local political personalities, when not chosen 
to represent YR in the election, chose to run anyway.  Their 
participation complicates the efforts of YR to organize 
unified support in each of the 22 electoral districts.  Some 
believe that at least some of those candidates do not intend 
to be spoilers for YR, but have thrown their hats into the 
ring in order to be "bought off" by the party or to win name 
recognition for a possible future election run; 
 
-- other observers allege a serious rivalry between two 
groups in the Chuvashiya administration.  One group is 
allegedly headed by the current Head of Chuvashiya's 
Presidential Administration and, it is rumored, the most 
likely successor to President Fedorov, Enver Ablyakimov.  The 
second group is chaired by the Chuvashiya's Minister of 
Sport, Mikhail Krasnov and Krasnov's brother, who is also in 
the administration. In their struggle for supremacy, each 
group has fielded its own candidates in some of the 
single-mandate contests.  If an agreement is not reached 
before the elections, the YR's expectations may have to be 
curtailed. 
 
16. (C) In Cheboksary, the October 8 elections are widely 
viewed as a dress rehearsal for the 2007 Duma elections. As 
part of YR's campaign, the voters are frequently reminded of 
what the Republic administration has done for them.  Among 
the accomplishments touted are: 
 
-- the completion of a network providing natural gas 
connections to all dwellings in Chuvashiya; 
-- the consolidation and reform of the school system, with 
fewer, better-funded, computer-equipped schools and a network 
of 200 buses to get the students to them; 
-- an on-going program to provide potable water to all; 
-- an effort to be completed in 2008, to pave all of the 
Republic's roads; 
-- a new network of ambulances and a state-of-the-art 
ambulance dispatch network; 
-- the halving of public sector payroll indebtedness; 
-- a reportedly successful experiment in "electronic 
government"; 
-- a 15 percent payraise for public employees in 2006, and a 
promised 11 percent increase in 2007. 
 
It is expected that continuing infusions from the 
Stabilization Fund will further buoy UR's election prospects. 
 
 
MOSCOW 00011137  005 OF 005 
 
 
 
17. (C) Implicitly supplementing those programs is a 
consensus that life is getting better, at least in 
Cheboksary. where about 400 thousand of the Republic's 1 
million, 300 thousand residents live.  The same, according to 
those in Cheboksary, cannot be said for the Republic's 
regions, where development is reportedly more spotty. 
 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
 
18. (C) Cheboksary and its environs are bristling with new 
apartment buildings, the city recently opened a new dock for 
Volga River tourist traffic, there are more than enough cars 
to fill the roads that have yet to be paved, and encounters 
with residents during Poloff's two-day stay suggest that a 
sense of progress and economic well-being should translate, 
at least in the capital, into a majority of votes for the 
status quo.  Still, YR appears to be under some pressure, 
perhaps from Moscow, to make that majority absolute, which is 
likely the source of some of the misbehavior described here. 
BURNS

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