An all-time record 63 parties will compete in the upcoming regional elections next month, but pundits and opposition candidates say undesirables have been purged from the lists. “The intrigue is mostly about the turnout and runners-up in the gubernatorial polls,” regional analyst Alexei Titkov of the Higher School of Economics said Thursday. “If less than 30 percent of voters turn out, it may finally trigger the long-awaited public discussion about there being something not quite right about our elections,” Titkov said by telephone. On Wednesday, candidate registration closed for the more than 5,800 local elections that will take place across 84 of 85 Russian provinces on Sept. 14, according to the Central Election Commission. Thirty governor seats are up for grabs, from St. Petersburg to the far eastern Primorye region, and 14 regional legislatures will be re-elected, including in Moscow. But not a single incumbent, Kremlin-endorsed governor risks defeat, Titkov said — mostly because electoral authorities have banned all dangerous rivals from the race.
This includes popular opposition figure Oksana Dmitriyeva in St. Petersburg, Russia’s one-time vice president Alexander Rutskoi in the Kursk region and former regional prime minister Rail Sarbayev in the republic of Bashkortostan.
In Moscow, no candidates endorsed by opposition whistleblower Alexei Navalny — a runner-up in the 2013 mayoral vote — made it to the ballots.
The unsurmountable obstacle in most cases was a rule obliging independents to collect signatures in their support in order to be allowed to stand.
Signatures collected by opposition candidates are routinely declared void on technicalities as innocuous as shortening “street” to “st.” or “2014” to “’14.”
Electoral authorities ruled that no opposition figures in Moscow — where 600,000 voted for Navalny in 2013 — managed to collect the required 5,500 signatures in support of their bid.
That task was, however, aced by a handful of public unknowns, including a 26-year-old handyman and a funeral home owner who reported official spending on the campaign of 3,500 rubles ($97).