On Sunday, the governors of 21 Russian regions and more than 1,300 heads of small city administrations will be elected, together with deputies for 11 regional parliaments and 25 city legislatures. The nationwide elections, known as unified election day, are considered by some analysts to be a final rehearsal for the State Duma elections in 2016 in which tactics and methods are being tested accordingly. The main question is whether the opposition will be able to gain any ground, but chances are slim, say pundits. “The Kremlin fears elections at all levels,” Dmitry Oreshkin, an independent political analyst, told The Moscow Times, commenting on vigorous efforts in some regions to eliminate the opposition at the candidate registration stage. The campaign has seen several tactics employed that have raised eyebrows among political commentators.
This year nine regional governors resigned before their terms officially ended in order to participate in the elections in September. Most of them still had another two years left in office, though some had just a few days left of their terms.
Mikhail Ignatyev, head of the republic of Chuvashia, handed in his notice in June, two months before his office was due to expire, according to the independent election watchdog Golos. Rustam Minnikhanov, head of the republic of Tatarstan, proved the most impatient: He resigned just a day before his term ended on March 24 this year.
Under Russian legislation, if a sitting governor resigns before their term expires, elections are scheduled for the closest unified election day. Critics say this tactic is used by pro-Kremlin governors to secure their seat for another five years.