OUTCOME OF MARCH 1 ELECTIONS SATISFIED ALL POLITICAL PARTIES
Regional elections: United Russia came in first. Its political adversaries complain of violations.
United Russia views the outcome of regional elections as its smashing success. The ruling party came in first in all nine Federation subjects that elected the regional legislatures. Its functionaries remain mayors of lots of cities throughout Russia.
Duma Senior Deputy Chairman Oleg Morozov’s words are a clear indication of how apprehensive and unsure of itself United Russia was at first. “Others prognosticated our political failure, fomented by dissatisfaction with the ruling party,” he said. “The opposition used this slogan in its campaign, but it miscalculated.”
With more and more regions reporting United Russia’s success, its spokesmen kept gaining confidence. Morozov eventually called the regional elections a “referendum in support of the anti-crisis policy of the powers-that-be and United Russia.” (United Russia last called elections a referendum in 2007 when Vladimir Putin headed its list of candidates for the Duma.)
Official estimates added to United Russia’s glee. Addressing forum Strategy’2020, Vladislav Surkov of the Presidential Administration was clearly smug over what he called “one party’s domination in the country.” “Had it been otherwise, we’d have found this zone of turbulence much harder to negotiate,” Surkov said. By and large, the official appraised the outcome of the election as triumph of the political system established in Russia. “Yes, United Russia did come in first in most territories,” he said. “Communist beat United Russia in some places. Anyway, this is our political system, a system that works. A system that will cope with the crisis.”
It does not take a genius to see that the chain of reasoning suggested by the authorities requires continuation: trust expressed in the course of the election gives a carte blanche for new action.
The opposition in the meantime regards the outcome of election as the beginning of end of United Russia’s monopolism.
The CPRF, LDPR, and Fair Russia complain of numerous violations. Duma deputy Gennadi Gudkov mentioned “broad” and “unprecedented” use of the administrative resource and deployment of the police and courts in backstage fighting with political adversaries. Communists also spoke of the administrative resource but recognized its evolution over the years. “There was a period not long ago when the ruling party and the administrative vertical working for it made an emphasis on mass propaganda of themselves and their policy,” Ivan Melnikov of the Central Committee of the CPRF said. “This time, however, they made an emphasis on counter-propaganda and dirty tricks.” CPRF functionary attributed it to “the utter failure of their policy” which in its turn “burst two air balloons i.e. the so called Putin’s Plan and Strategy’2020.”
LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said his party would now concentrate on alteration of the staff composition of the Central Electoral Commission and its regional divisions. According to Zhirinovsky, “LDPR’s average performance gauged at 10% is but 50% of what we really accomplished.” “We will fight for every vote really cast for us,” he promised. There was nothing really new in that. Communists keep claiming after every election that the CPRF remains the second most formidable political force in Russia. Fair Russia functionaries in their turn boast of the growth of leftist moods in the country after every election.
As matters stand, Russian Patriots is the only political force whose pride in its own performance is more or less justified. Russian Patriots became the only non-parliamentary party running for legislatures in three Federation subjects and scoring relative victories in two of them.
Outcome of municipal elections in some regions was somewhat surprising, but not even they will have any noticeable effect on the general correlation of political forces.
Communists came in first in election of the Tver municipal legislature. Experts say United Russia lost there because the population blamed it for hiked electricity tariffs and for unemployment. Neither did the locals liked it when United Russia amended the municipal charter and abolished direct election of the mayor. And of course, corruption scandals involving United Russia faction of the municipal legislation and mayor of Tver (another functionary of the ruling party) did not exactly endear it to the population.
One Eduard Kachanovsky, Director General of StroiOptTorg (a local business), became the mayor of Smolensk with 28.5% votes cast for him. Kachanovsky had nominated himself and ran against proteges of political parties. United Russia’s nominee came in third.
Still, United Russia knows how to snatch victory out of the teeth of a looming disaster. Kachanovsky in Smolensk already announced that he considered himself a United Russia member. In Tver, United Russia functionaries are about to initiate talks with the LDPR in order to pool efforts with it and secure the majority on the municipal legislature.
Some heads will nevertheless roll. Leaders of Tver regional and municipal organizations of United Russia have submitted their resignations already.