08MOSCOW585, REGIONAL ELECTIONS OFFER FEWER CHOICES

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MOSCOW585 2008-02-29 15:48 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO1521
PP RUEHLN RUEHPOD RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #0585/01 0601548
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 291548Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6902
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 000585 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM SOCI PINR RS
SUBJECT: REGIONAL ELECTIONS OFFER FEWER CHOICES 
 
REF: A. MOSCOW 479 
     B. MOSCOW 467 
 
Summary 
------- 
 
1. (SBU) Voters in 11 Russian regions will find fewer options 
on the ballot for their regional parliaments when they go to 
the polls March 2 in elections to be held concurrently with 
the selection of a new president.  Following a trend that 
began with changes to the electoral legislation that required 
the State Duma to be elected on the basis of party lists 
only, some Russian regions also have introduced party lists 
into their regional parliaments.  As the State Duma elections 
showed, dispensing with single mandate seats likely will 
result in limited opportunities for opposition and 
independent candidates to win representation in regional 
parliaments.  In many regions, the liberal opposition parties 
Union of Right Forces and Yabloko are not taking part.  Their 
dismal showing in the December elections left them with 
little money to run in local elections.  Under Russian law, 
this lack of participation could jeopardize their long-term 
viability as political parties.  End summary. 
 
REGIONS FOLLOW NATIONAL TREND 
----------------------------- 
 
2. (SBU) Eleven Russian regions will hold elections for their 
regional parliaments on March 2, the same day as presidential 
elections.  The ll are: the republics of Bashkortostan, 
Ingushetiya, Kalmykiya, and Yakutiya; Altay Kray, and the 
Amur, Ivanovo, Rostov, Sverdlovsk, Ulyanovsk, and Yaroslavl 
oblasts.  Elections for mayor, city council, and local 
governing bodies in numerous cities and villages throughout 
the country will also take place on March 2.  Most regions 
still maintain regional parliaments that are split between 
single mandate seats and proportional sets.  Following a 
course set at the national level to elect members of the 
State Duma solely based on party lists, some regions have 
opted for a similar electoral system for their regional 
parliaments.  Three regions which are holding regional 
elections - Ingushetiya, Kalmykiya, and Amur Oblast - have 
done away with single mandate seats and will chose their 
deputies from party lists.  The other eight regions will use 
a mixed electoral system.  Half of their members will be 
elected from single mandate districts and the other half from 
party lists. 
 
3. (SBU) A report issued by Aleksandr Kynev of the Fund for 
Information Policy said the move toward a proportional 
electoral system in the regions is another step toward the 
completion of regional reforms which began in 2003.  "The 
proportional system little by little has been pushing out the 
single mandate districts."  In past elections, St. 
Petersburg, the Moscow region, and Dagestan shifted to a 
purely proportional system.  Others -- Chechnya and 
Primorskiy Kray -- have announced their intention to do so in 
the future. Kemerovo is the only region that will continue to 
elect its regional parliament from single mandate districts 
only. Its next elections will be held in October 2008. 
 
4. (SBU) Along with moving to a proportional electoral 
system, the number of parties actively participating in 
elections has dwindled.  The four parties represented in the 
State Duma -- United Russia, Just Russia, the Communist Party 
(KPRF) and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) -- dominate 
regional elections. Other parties, including the Agrarian 
party and Civic Force, which were part of the coalition that 
nominated Dmitriy Medvedev for president, have had trouble 
registering their party lists in some regions. The Agrarians 
attempted to have their party lists registered in five 
regions, but failed in Ingushetiya and Altay Kray. Civic 
Force was only successful in registering its lists in 
Sverdlovsk and Yaroslavl.  Only the four parliamentary 
parties have been registered in Bashkortostan, Ingushetiya, 
Altay Kray, Rostov and Ulyanovsk.  Yaroslavl has registered 
the largest number of parties (nine), including the Green 
Party, People's Union and Patriots of Russia.  Despite its 
place as one of the four parliamentary parties, Just Russia 
has faced its own troubles in the regions.  A regional court 
ordered that Just Russia's party list and eight 
single-mandate candidates be removed from the ballot in 
Yaroslavl (ref A) and more recently, the party has been 
removed from the ballot in Yakutiya.  Just Russia officials 
maintain that their ballot woes are the result of ruling 
party pressure in areas where United Russia is relatively 
weak. 
 
5.  (SBU) According to Kynev's report, 15 percent of party 
lists that were submitted for registration in the March 2 
regional elections were refused.  In regional elections which 
 
MOSCOW 00000585  002 OF 002 
 
 
took place in March 2007, every third party was refused 
registration.  In December 2007, 42 of 64 lists were not 
registered.  While the rate of denial has declined, Kynev 
posited that the stringent legislation had, 
election-by-election, eliminated "incorrect parties." 
 
6.  (SBU) Liberal opposition parties Union of Right Forces 
(SPS) and Yabloko, following their slim showing in the State 
Duma elections, are so down and out that they are barely 
participating in regional elections.  Yabloko will not appear 
on any regional ballots despite attempts to do so in 
Ingushetiya and Altay Kray.  SPS has registered a party list 
in Ivanovo.  Lack of money and or ability to collect 
signatures were cited as the reasons by both parties.  In 
contrast, the four parliamentary parties are not required to 
submit a deposit or collect signatures in regional elections. 
 While the cost of running in regional elections has turned 
out to be prohibitive for opposition parties, the threshold 
for entering regional parliaments in some regions is several 
percentage points lower than that required to enter the State 
Duma, and thereby potentially attainable for 
non-parliamentary parties.  In Ivanovo, the threshold is four 
percent and in Yaroslavl it is five percent.  In the other 
regions holding regional elections, the threshold is the same 
as for the State Duma, seven percent.  "The 'old-timers' 
(Yabloko and SPS) are being pushed from the regions," Kynev 
said. 
 
7.  (SBU) The lack of participation by SPS and Yabloko puts 
their viability as political parties at stake.  Under Russian 
law, political parties must participate in elections or risk 
losing their party registration.  In order to maintain the 
status of a political party after January 1, 2009, parties 
must have their party list or at least one single mandate 
candidate participate in elections in at least 17 regions of 
the country in elections from 2004 to 2008.  (Currently SPS 
and Yabloko have representatives in regional Dumas in 11 and 
6 regions respectively, but we are still researching whether 
cumulatively these opposition parties will meet this 
threshold in 2009.) 
 
LIMITING POLITICAL COMPETITION 
------------------------------ 
 
8.  (SBU) In 2003, there were 44 political parties and at 
that time, they were able to form electoral blocs or 
alliances with like-minded partners.  Now, as a result of 
changes to the Law on Elections, political blocs are 
prohibited and deputies, once elected, cannot change parties. 
 The consequences of changes to electoral law have been not 
only a move toward proportional elections at the national 
level and throughout the country, but a system that is 
dominated by only four political parties.  "Regional 
political life has been gradually forced to imitate the 
four-party system of the federal center," said Kynev. 
 
9.  (SBU) To the extent political competition exists today, 
it is mostly seen (or unseen) within political parties as 
internecine battles take place over local control of the 
party.  "The real struggle has taken on an internal 
character.  In many regions, the so-called unity of United 
Russia is not as stable as it might seem," said Kynev, who 
cited as an example a conflict between Kalmykiya's President 
and the Mayor of its capital city, Elista.  Both are members 
of United Russia. There has also been in-fighting in Ivanovo 
between the governor and a State Duma Deputy from the region 
which led to a mass resignation of regional Duma deputies and 
a call for early elections (ref B). 
 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
10.  (SBU) With the electoral amendments, the Kremlin said it 
sought an outcome that produced fewer parties, but ones with 
broad national representation.  The result, indeed, is fewer 
parties, at the cost of opposition representation. 
BURNS

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