09MOSCOW489, REGIONAL ELECTION PREVIEW: UNITED RUSSIA AIMS TO

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MOSCOW489 2009-02-27 11:46 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO4716
PP RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHPOD RUEHSK RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #0489/01 0581146
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 271146Z FEB 09
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2154
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 MOSCOW 000489 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM RS
SUBJECT: REGIONAL ELECTION PREVIEW: UNITED RUSSIA AIMS TO 
LIMIT COMMUNIST GAINS 
 
REF: A. MOSCOW 290 
     B. MOSCOW 2008 3743 
     C. MOSCOW 2008 3754 
     D. MOSCOW 472 
     E. YEKATERINBURG 7 
 
1. (SBU) Summary: Despite party infighting and some notable 
defections, United Russia is expected to win in all nine 
regions holding March 1 parliamentary elections.  The 
Communist Party has campaigned vigorously to make the 
election a referendum on United Russia's handling of the 
economic crisis, which experts believe will give the 
Communists a modest boost at the polls.  Communists and other 
observers expect electoral fraud to mask actual voter 
discontent with the ruling party, with the Communists 
preemptively applying for rallies protesting the electoral 
outcomes.  In response, United Russia and Just Russia have 
campaigned widely to stanch the potential electoral damage to 
the regime.  All four State Duma parties are on the ballots 
of all nine regions, and Patriots of Russia registered in 
three regions.  Yabloko, forced by debt to abandon 
region-wide ambitions, registered only in isolated municipal 
elections.  End Summary. 
 
Duma Parties Register, Debts Force Yabloko to Sit Out 
--------------------------------------------- -------- 
 
2. (SBU) March 1 regional parliamentary elections will be 
held in Tatarstan, Volgograd, Kabardino-Balkaria, 
Karachayevo-Cherkessiya, Khakassia, Arkhangelsk, Bryansk, 
Vladimir, and Nenets Autonomous Region.  More than 3,200 
electoral campaigns of different levels (including local 
referenda) will take place in 77 subjects of the Russian 
Federation, and the Central Electoral Commission has 
estimated that some 20 million voters may take part in the 
various elections. 
 
3. (SBU) The parliamentary elections will further cement the 
position of the four State Duma parties, which are all 
registered to compete in all nine regions.  The only 
non-State Duma party to successfully register was the 
Patriots of Russia in Khakassia, Karachayevo-Cherkessiya, and 
Volgograd.  As non-Duma parties, Patriots of Russia and 
Yabloko were required to collect signatures or pay a pledge 
fee in order to register for the elections -- an arduous and 
expensive process that Yabloko head Sergey Mitrokhin told us 
they could not afford.  Yabloko Deputy Head Sergey Ivanenko 
told press in January that his party would limit its 
ambitions to municipal elections, where "the Kremlin's hand 
has not yet reached."  Yabloko was denied registration in 
Tomsk and Tver city elections and had difficulties 
registering in St. Petersburg, but successfully registered in 
Yekaterinburg, Chelyabinsk, and a few towns in Moscow Region. 
 
United Russia Expected To Win Big 
--------------------------------- 
 
4. (SBU) The Public Opinion Fund (FOM) predicted February 25 
that United Russia would receive an absolute majority of 
53-58 percent in Arkhangelsk, Bryansk, Khakassia, and 
Volgograd regional elections.  In Kabardino-Balkaria, 
Karachayevo-Cherkessiya, and Tatarstan the party is expected 
to receive even more.  The Communists, FOM forecast, would 
come in second in all seven of those regions.  Just Russia 
and LDPR are fighting for third place in all nine regions. 
Vladimir and Nenets Autonomous Region, the only two of the 
nine regions where United Russia does not hold a majority 
now, are expected to be closer races.  According to FOM, the 
Communists might take enough seats "to slightly change the 
situation" in Volgograd, Vladimir, and Bryansk.  LDPR leader 
Vladimir Zhirinovskiy expressed optimism that his party would 
win seats in all regions, with the strongest showing in 
Bryansk and Nenets Autonomous Region. 
 
5. (SBU) However, United Russia's notoriously strong 
discipline has frayed in the regions as party infighting has 
become public.  In Murmansk, Governor Yuriy Evdokimov opposed 
the regional party branch's support for the current mayor of 
the regional capital.  In Nevinnomyssk, the regional branch 
refused to support the current United Russia mayor's 
re-election in favor of an opponent.  Party membership also 
has lost its cachet among some candidates who have opted to 
run without the party's name attached.  The mayor of Smolensk 
recently left the party, and in Chelyabinsk three United 
Russia candidates filed as independents just before the 
mid-January registration deadline.  Even State Duma Speaker 
Boris Gryzlov's son, Dmitriy Gryzlov, is running as a 
self-nominated (independent) candidate in St. Petersburg 
district administration elections. 
 
 
MOSCOW 00000489  002 OF 004 
 
 
Communists Expect Electoral Gains, Fraud 
---------------------------------------- 
 
6. (SBU) The Communist Party (KPRF) has campaigned vigorously 
to attract protest votes against the ruling regime in what it 
contends is a referendum on anti-crisis measures.  KPRF 
Deputy Chair Ivan Melnikov told Kommersant on February 25 
that he expected KPRF to w
in at least 20 percent of the vote 
in Bryansk, Vladimir, Volgograd, and Khakassia.  Communist 
leader Gennadiy Zyuganov has traveled extensively in February 
to rally supporters, with recent visits to Bryansk and 
Tatarstan. 
 
7. (SBU) Melnikov has repeatedly told press that he expected 
widespread electoral fraud to mask the Communists' true gains 
at the polls on March 1 (Ref A).  To detect such fraud, 
Melnikov announced that KPRF would conduct a parallel 
electronic accounting of vote results.  Anticipating that the 
government would falsify vote results, the Communists have 
applied preemptively for protest permits in all nine regions 
should they deem the elections unfair. 
 
Just Russia Hopes to Thwart Communist Gains 
------------------------------------------- 
 
8. (SBU) Seconding the Communists' assessment, Golos 
political scientist Aleksandr Kynaev told Kommersant, "there 
is growing discontent" and "people will not vote for a party 
but for the general attitude toward the system.  This will be 
a protest."  In an effort to siphon votes from the Communists 
to a left-leaning pro-Kremlin party, Just Russia has deployed 
party leader Sergey Mironov in February to rally support in 
Volgograd, Bryansk, Arkhangelsk, and Vladimir.  Mironov told 
press in Volgograd that he expects to win seats in every 
regional parliament due to an increase in support for leftist 
ideals during the crisis.  However, a January 14-25 poll by 
the Public Opinion Fund (FOM) indicated that Just Russia 
risks not passing the electoral threshold in all nine 
regional elections. 
 
Thresholds and Registration 
--------------------------- 
 
9. (SBU) Election procedures vary from region to region, and 
regional parliaments can be elected either by proportional 
representation or by a mixed electoral system. 
Kabardino-Balkaria and Nenets Autonomous Region use only 
proportional representation, so only parties will run and 
deputies will be selected from party lists according to the 
results.  The other seven regions will use a mixed electoral 
system, with half of the deputies elected from party lists 
and half as single-mandate candidates (who may be party 
members or independent candidates).  The passing threshold to 
win seats has been raised in eight regions from 5 to 7 
percent; in Khakassia it remains 5 percent.  Law demands that 
each parliament include at least two parties, so that even if 
only one party reaches the threshold then the party with the 
second-most votes will win a seat. (Note: This occurred in 
Kemerovo Region's October elections, which allotted a single 
token seat to Just Russia despite its not passing the 
threshold.) 
 
"Locomotives" Again Top Party Lists 
----------------------------------- 
 
10. (SBU) During regional campaigns, political parties 
traditionally top their candidate lists with heads of regions 
and federal or regional party leaders.  These top-level 
functionaries, dubbed "locomotives," as a rule do not give up 
their existing jobs to join the parliaments.  They are 
involved in the campaigns in hope that their authority and 
popularity will help their respective parties to win.  In 
regional campaigns, United Russia usually tops its party 
lists with governors and mayors of the regional capitals. 
The Communists and LDPR appoint their most popular federal 
and regional leaders to top their lists. 
 
11. (SBU) Locomotives in March elections include 
Kabardino-Balkaria President Arsen Kanokov atop the United 
Russia list, and LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovskiy leading 
the list in Volgograd and Khakassia.  Other locomotives in 
Khakassia will be Republic Head Viktor Zimin for United 
Russia and Patriots of Russia national leader Gennadiy 
Semigin.  Vladimir mayor Aleksandr Ryabkov heads the United 
Russia list in that region's parliamentary elections. 
 
Internet and SMS Voting Experiments 
----------------------------------- 
 
12. (SBU) Central Election Commission head Vladimir Churov 
 
MOSCOW 00000489  003 OF 004 
 
 
revealed that the internet voting experiment, first unveiled 
in Tula Region during the October elections, will be used 
again in "some remote areas" of Vladimir Region.  Also in 
Vladimir Region, SMS (text message) voting will receive its 
first trial.  Internet and SMS voting experiments will run 
parallel to the actual elections, and votes cast in the 
experiments will not count toward official vote tallies. 
 
Regional Parliamentary Breakdowns 
--------------------------------- 
 
13. (SBU) The following is a breakdown of regional duma 
elections: 
 
-- Tatarstan (100 seats): Only the four State Duma parties 
received registration, and United Russia is widely expected 
to maintain its strong majority in the regional duma where it 
currently holds 72 seats.  The Communists have alleged 
widespread campaign violations by United Russia in Tatarstan, 
and KPRF Deputy Nikolai Ryabov demanded that the regional 
electoral commission head resign.  LDPR head Vladimir 
Zhirinovskiy also called for the electoral commission's 
resignation after claiming that it hindered his campaign. 
According to a FOM poll in late January, United Russia led 
the race and could win up to 70 percent of the votes, while 
Just Russia and LDPR risk not passing the 7-percent 
threshold.  The Communists were poised to win 10 percent. 
 
-- Volgograd (38 seats): United Russia city officials have 
conceded that the Communists likely would receive a boost of 
up to 5 percent in the election (Ref B).  The Communists have 
accused United Russia of illegal electioneering in Volgograd, 
where a local municipality reportedly paid for and 
distributed children's gifts bearing the United Russia logo. 
United Russia holds 20 seats currently, and leaders of Just 
Russia (which holds none) told us they hope toQin seats in 
the next parliament. 
 
-- Karachayevo-Cherkessiya (73 seats): The four State Duma 
parties and Patriots of Russia received registration to 
appear on the ballot.  United Russia, which holds 45 seats, 
is expected to win in a landslide.  Local election officials 
told us they expect a large turnout of around 80 percent (up 
from 60 percent for national elections in the region) because 
voters will elect local governments in addition to the 
regional parliament.  Mukhamed Cherkesov from Adygea Khasa (a 
Circassian diaspora NGO) also told us in December that his 
organization will do what it can to make sure ethnic 
Cherkessk "get out the vote" and that he would try to enlist 
several successful Cherkessk businessmen to help (Ref C). 
 
-- Kabardino-Balkaria (72 seats): The republic has decreased 
the number of regional deputies in its next parliament from 
110 to 72.  In the last regional election in December 2003, 
United Russia received 71 percent of the vote, KPRF received 
9 percent and the Agrarian Party (which recently merged with 
United Russia) also received 9 percent.  Un
ited Russia is 
expected to maintain its overwhelming majority. 
 
-- Khakassia (75 seats): Patriots of Russia received its 
registration only after an appeal to the Central Election 
Commission.  The region's current parliament comprises a 
fractious membership: in addition to the State Duma parties, 
the so-called "Khakassia Bloc" holds 19 seats and 
independents hold 4 seats.  However, blocs will not be on the 
ballot and could result only if non-party single-mandate 
candidates joined together. 
 
-- Bryansk (60 seats): KPRF leader Gennadiy Zyuganov 
predicted in January that the Communists would get the upper 
hand over United Russia in Bryansk, but observers have 
predicted they will win no more than 25 percent.  United 
Russia is expected to win by a large margin, but the party 
took no chances in deploying State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov 
on February 18 to bolster party efforts there (Ref D). 
 
-- Vladimir (38 seats): The Communists registered their party 
list only with the intervention of the Central Election 
Commission.  In another controversy, Just Russia members 
Galina Esyakova and Viktor Shohrin accused State Duma deputy 
Anton Belyakov of selling positions after they did not make 
their party's list.  Although United Russia (with 18 seats) 
does not hold a majority of seats in the current parliament, 
and the Communists traditionally have been strong in 
Vladimir, experts expect United Russia to win a majority on 
March 1. 
 
-- Nenets Autonomous Region (11 seats): In one of the more 
unpredictable elections, the region has decreased the number 
of deputies in its next parliament from 18 to 11.  United 
 
MOSCOW 00000489  004 OF 004 
 
 
Russia does not hold a majority of seats in the current 
parliament, and the recent sacking of Governor Valeriy 
Potapenko may hamper the party's efforts to achieve one. 
United Russia's Artur Chilingarov told Kommersant February 26 
that prior to the change of governors his party was poised to 
win more than 60 percent of the vote; "now," he despaired, 
"everything has fallen."  Nonetheless, despite an active LDPR 
campaign and strong Communist support in the region, United 
Russia is expected to win the most votes if not a majority. 
 
-- Arkhangelsk (62 seats): Patriots of Russia were denied 
registration in the regional election, and harassment of 
citizens who signed electoral petitions has been reported. 
 
Local Elections 
--------------- 
 
14. (SBU) Mayoral elections will be held in Chita, 
Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy, Blagoveshchensk, Murmansk, 
Novosibirsk, Smolensk, Chelyabinsk, Birobidzhan, and Anadyr. 
City parliaments and administrations will be elected in 
Ulan-Ude, Khabarovsk, Chita, Bryansk, Vologda, Murmansk, 
Penza, Yekaterinburg, Tver, Chelyabinsk, Birobidzhan, and 
Anadyr.  Bryansk and Tver elections will use proportional 
representation; Ulan-Ude and Chita will run mixed systems; 
all others will use a first-past-the-post system.  See Ref E 
for details on elections to be held in the Urals Federal 
District. 
 
Comment 
------- 
 
15. (SBU) March 1 elections will not threaten United Russia's 
tight grasp on regional dominance.  However, the evident 
fraying of party discipline and Moscow's exertions to 
maintain control demonstrate increased concern that the 
economic crisis will turn political.  Acknowledgement by 
local United Russia officials that the Communists will make 
modest gains in some regions, the deployment of pro-Kremlin 
leaders and electoral "advisors" to the regions in theQun-up 
to the election, and the decision by some candidates to 
eschew the party brand indicate that United Russia's cachet 
has tarnished.  How the regime responds to electoral 
setbacks, including whether it continues to support governors 
unable to muster an adequate voter turnout, will provide an 
important insight into future anti-crisis tactics in the 
regions. 
BEYRLE

Wikileaks

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