Kremlin-backed candidates dominated Russia’s first gubernatorial elections in eight years, which were reinstated by President Vladimir Putin to quell the discontent that fueled the biggest protests in a decade. The ruling United Russia party’s candidates won all five races for governor and six local legislative contests, according to preliminary results announced today by officials from local election commissions on state television channel Rossiya 24. Voter turnout was low, dipping below 8 percent in the Primorsky region on the country’s Pacific coast. The election was the first major electoral test for Putin since he reclaimed the presidency in May and thousands of protesters took to the streets following a December parliamentary ballot the opposition said was rigged. The Kremlin winnowed the contenders in gubernatorial elections by using a so-called municipal filter to screen candidates, while the heads of at least 20 of Russia’s 83 regions were replaced or reappointed before legislative changes went into effect.
“After the previous elections, which were disastrous for the ruling party, United Russia has changed its approach,” said Natalya Tsyganok, a political scientist at Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok. “A calm atmosphere was the distinctive feature of the campaign.” Russian equities, which have the lowest valuations based on projected earnings among 21 emerging markets tracked by Bloomberg, advanced, with the Micex Index gaining 0.3 percent to 1,449.80 at 12:01 p.m. in Moscow. The ruble-denominated benchmark gauge trades at 5.5 times estimated earnings after gaining 3.4 percent this year. “Everyone expected a party fiasco after December’s elections,” said Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who took over the chairmanship of United Russia from Putin a year ago. “Everyone spoke about a downward trend as if everything was collapsing under us. Nothing of the kind happened.”