07MOSCOW656, OREL: VULNERABLE GOVERNOR CREATES OPPORTUNITIES

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MOSCOW656 2007-02-14 14:56 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO7753
RR RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #0656/01 0451456
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 141456Z FEB 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7475
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHLN/AMCONSUL ST PETERSBURG 3747
RUEHVK/AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK 1903
RUEHYG/AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG 2165

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 000656 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PINR KDEM SOCI RS
SUBJECT: OREL: VULNERABLE GOVERNOR CREATES OPPORTUNITIES 
FOR OTHER PARTIES 
 
 
MOSCOW 00000656  001.2 OF 003 
 
 
------- 
SUMMARY 
------- 
 
1. (SBU)  Meetings during an early-February visit to Orel 
region suggested that a variety of factors could combine to 
make the March 11 regional elections very competitive. 
Rumored infighting in United Russia (YR) and an unpopular 
YR-affiliated governor have allowed the Communist Party 
(KPRF) to remain within striking distance of the 
Kremlin-sponsored United Russia party. The second 
Kremlin-approved party, Just Russia, appears to be benefiting 
from heavy financing and is in the race as well. Smaller 
parties and independent candidates are using door-to-door 
appeals in an effort to overcome the advantages of the 
majors.  End Summary. 
 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
United Russia: Burdened by an Unpopular Governor 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
 
2. (SBU) United Russia currently holds 34 out of 50 seats in 
the regional legislature and aims to retain its majority in 
the March 11 regional election.  Although the percentages 
vary, local polls show YR with a mere three percentage point 
advanta'oQocal observers, is Governor 
Yegor Stroev, who has been in power for over 20 years, and is 
now a United Russia member. Local journalist Sergey Tyurin 
claimed that Stroev is perceived as not having successfully 
cultivated a relationship with President Putin, to the 
detriment of the region's economy.  The local electorate, 
according to Tyurin, is tired of a Governor who promises, but 
does not deliver. 
 
3. (SBU) Stroev's unpopularity has reportedly led to 
infighting within United Russia.  United Russia leader and 
First Deputy Governor Pavel Merkulov, who suffered a surprise 
defeat in the 2006 Orel mayoral election, alluded to the 
problems caused within the party by the Governor in telling 
us that United Russia would demand "accountability" from 
Stroev as it went into the elections. 
 
4. (SBU) In a separate meeting, the NGO "Civic Resource" 
President Yelena Kastornova did not think that a poor track 
record necessarily complicated YR's efforts to remain on top. 
Other parties were promising a lot, she said, but United 
Russia would reap the benefits associated with stability.  In 
a February 8 meeting, Patriots of Russia Chairwoman Yelena 
Krachnakova conceded that some had done well under United 
Russia, but asserted that they were a minority: only twenty 
percent of likely voters. 
 
--------------------------- 
KPRF: Looking to Capitalize 
--------------------------- 
 
5. (SBU) In the March 2006 mayoral election, Aleksandr 
Kasyanov unexpectedly and narrowly won on the KPRF ticket 
taking 29 percent of the vote to Merkulov's 26 percent.  At a 
meeting with civil society and human rights activists, the 
"United Europe" Institute's Dmitriy Krayukhin attributed 
Kasyanov's win, despite the heavy use of administrative 
resources for Merkulov, to the Governor's unpopularity and 
the support of civil society activists, the press, and the 
KPRF rank-and-file.  While ruing the need to work with the 
KPRF, Krayukhin thought it was the only option for those 
wanting to create a true opposition to YR and Stroev, since 
all other parties were co-opted and the "against all" option 
had been removed from the ballot. 
 
6. (SBU) Although KPRF has only five deputies in the current 
regional legislature, many interlocutors in Orel described 
the region as "red."  They note that KPRF Chairman Gennadiy 
Zyuganov is a native son and that KPRF voters are disciplined 
and hence much coveted by other parties.  KPRF's Vasiliy 
Ikonnikov told us separately that local businesspeople who 
are out of favor with United Russia were now financing the 
KPRF. Many observers predicted that the KPRF as a result 
would run a close second to YR in March. 
 
----------------------------------- 
A Just Russia: Bringing in the Cash 
----------------------------------- 
 
7. (SBU) Although Just Russia has negligible poll 
recognition, no one doubts that it will finish a strong third 
 
MOSCOW 00000656  002.2 OF 003 
 
 
thanks to generous campaign financing. The Orel party office 
during our visit was swarming with young people collecting 
stacks of campaign material to distribute.  Just Russia is 
paying approximately USD150 per week, more than one month's 
average salary, to distribute campaign materials.  Just 
Russia's Marina Ivashina confirmed that all financing was 
coming from Moscow.  Just Russia is mounting a PR campaign 
that will portray YR as a party that talks, while Just Russia 
"does."  Tyurin suggested that Just Russia would portray 
itself as close to Putin in order to win votes. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ---------- 
SPS: Importing Strategists...and Localizing Its Me
ssage 
--------------------------------------------- ---------- 
 
8. (SBU)  In a February 7 meeting, Sergey Tarasov and Oleg 
Repin described SPS's message in Orel as "additional money 
for pensioners and those who depend on federal assistance." 
SPS, buoyed by its unexpected second place finish in Perm 
(where it garnered 16 percent of the votes in the October 
2006 election), has brought in campaign workers from all over 
Russia to get its message across.  It is relying largely on 
face-to-face campaigning as media access is complicated to 
access and expensive.  The party's goal is to win in enough 
regions to effect change at the federal level. 
 
------------------------------------------- 
Smaller Parties and Independent Candidates: 
Door-to-Door Canvassing 
------------------------------------------- 
 
9. (SBU)  The ballot also features LDPR (popularly predicted 
to win its "usual" 10 percent), the Democratic Party of 
Russia, Patriots of Russia, People's Will, and a host of 
independents on the individual candidate lists.  Most of 
these parties are optimistic that they will get at least one 
seat.  They and independent candidates are focusing their 
efforts on door-to-door canvassing with the expectation that 
a personal connection will instill greater confidence in 
prospective voters.  Independent candidate Olga Kurmova, who 
is running on a platform of helping families, children, and 
older people, firmly defended her ability to vote 
independently should she be elected.  "United Europe" 
Institute's Krayukhin was more cynical about the 
independents, alleging that many were actually United Russia 
proxies who are fearful of being tainted by association with 
the Governor. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
Yabloko:  Off the Ballot, but on the City Council 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
 
10. (SBU) Yabloko's Konstantin Fedotov explained that his 
party had not been registered, despite collecting a 
sufficient number of signatures, because its documents had 
not been bound together as required by law.  Fedotov claimed 
that Regional Election Commission Head Anatoliy Trofimov had 
been willing to overlook the requirement and accept the 
signatures the next day, but was preempted when the national 
daily Kommersant reported Yabloko's exclusion.  Trofimov 
himself told PolOff that Yabloko had not submitted its 
signatures on time.  Fedotov further noted that litigation 
would be pointless as inevitable court delays would render 
the matter moot.  "United Europe" Institute's Krayukhin 
dismissed the idea that Yabloko's exclusion was politically 
motivated.  He pointed to what he said were Fedotov's local 
government ties and claimed that Yabloko in Orel was in 
reality an adjunct of United Russia. 
 
11. (SBU)  Fedotov confided that the Moscow branch of Yabloko 
had refused to finance the party's Orel efforts. (Fedotov is 
on the City Council and hopes to raise Yabloko's profile in 
the region by undertaking high profile social projects and 
supporting local businesses.) 
 
------------------------- 
The Governor: A Liability 
------------------------- 
 
12. (SBU) At a February 8 meeting with civil society 
activists, the consensus was that Stroev was similar to an 
"oriental despot."  Orel oblast had fallen behind 
economically; in part, participants surmised, because Stroev 
was hostage to a circle of obsequious advisors.  Immediately 
after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Stroev had been able 
to rely on federal connections to ensure that pensions and 
state factory salaries were paid, and had been able to 
 
MOSCOW 00000656  003.2 OF 003 
 
 
"order" that factories be built.  The governor, however, was 
unable to manage the realities of today's Russia, even with a 
daughter in the Federation Council. 
 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
 
13. (SBU)  The level of dissatisfaction in the oblast has 
created real opportunities for parties other than United 
Russia to believe they have a chance to get into power. None 
of the parties is doing a remarkable job of distinguishing 
itself from the pack. However, as the campaign progresses, 
structural features -- like the festering dissatisfaction 
with Governor Stroev -- could make this contest much closer 
than YR's inherent advantages suggest it should be. 
BURNS

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