Every morning when Svetlana arrives at Susanin Square in the centre of Kostroma, she has to remind herself that she is doing this out of idealism. The soft-spoken 28-year-old is a campaign volunteer for the Russian opposition in regional elections scheduled for this Sunday, and things are not going well. “People react negatively to us,” says Svetlana as she tries to hand out flyers for RPR Parnas, a party co-chaired by Boris Nemtsov, the veteran opposition leader shot dead earlier this year. “The relentless propaganda works and people have it in their brains that we are the fifth column.” A few days ago, two women asked Svetlana why there were Russian flags on top of her stand and suggested that the party should instead fly American ones since it was a US lackey. Sunday’s elections, in which 16 regions will choose governors and 14 will select parliaments, illustrate just how far president Vladimir Putin has progressed in hollowing out the country’s democratic institutions during his 15 years in power, and how resigned to that the population has become.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi suffered his first election setback Monday, as results of weekend regional elections showed ebbing support for his centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and gains for populist opposition forces. Voting took place in seven out of Italy‘s 20 regions on Sunday, during a bank holiday weekend that saw many voters stay away from polling booths. Turnout fell to 53.9 per cent, compared to 64.1 per cent five years ago. The PD prevailed in five out of seven races, but suffered a surprise loss in Liguria, in the north-west, and saw its overall share of the vote fall sharply compared to last year‘s European elections, when it scored a record 41 per cent.
Ada Colau burst onto the political scene as an indignada—one of the thousands of young Spaniards who have filled public squares in recent years to protest corruption and economic austerity. Now she’ll be called Her Excellency the Mayor. Ms. Colau’s narrow victory here over the incumbent reflected the public mood across Spain as voters in municipal and regional elections Sunday vented their anger at the establishment by backing upstarts. “This was the victory of David over Goliath,” Ms. Colau said after the win by her leftist coalition, supported by the year-old Podemos party.
While most Indonesians were sleeping in the early hours of Friday, September 26, their elected representatives dismantled a cornerstone of the country’s democracy. After a politicized plenary debate that lasted more than 10 hours, the House of Representatives voted 226-135 to pass the controversial Regional Elections Bill (RUU Pilkada). Indonesians will now no longer be able to directly vote for their governors, mayors and district heads – a stunning reversal for one of the most widely praised emerging democracies in the world. This comes just two months after Indonesia voted as president Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, a furniture businessman who would not have become Solo mayor or Jakarta governor if not for direct local elections.
Indonesia’s parliament voted on Friday to do away with direct local elections in a move that critics say is a huge step backward for the country’s fledgling democracy. Proponents of the law change, to scrap direct elections for mayors and governors, had argued local elections had proven too costly, and were prone to conflict and corruption. The bill was backed by the coalition behind losing presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto. But critics disagreed, and questioned the timing of the bill, first proposed in 2012, just two months after the election of Joko Widodo. Titi Anggraini, director of the Association for Elections and Democracy (Perludem), said that many were upset by the law change. “I feel so disappointed. It shows how strong the opponents to democracy are. We are facing the biggest enemy of democracy.”
Germany’s new eurosceptic party is poised to make strong gains in two regional elections this weekend, ratcheting up pressure on Chancellor Angela Merkel who faces a threat on her right flank for the first time since taking power nine years ago. The small but fast-growing Alternative for Germany (AfD) poached thousands of votes from Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) in an election in Saxony two weeks ago, winning nearly 10 percent of the vote there with a focus on law-and-order policies and conservative values. It could repeat the trick in two other eastern states — Thuringia and Brandenburg — on Sunday. “Merkel has brought stability to the German economy and that has kept the conservatives in the CDU quiet,” said politics professor Nils Diederich at Berlin’s Free University. “But if the CDU starts losing votes, Merkel could come under pressure.” The threat from the AfD is not immediate. Merkel enjoys record popularity ratings of over 70 percent and is the undisputed leader of her party and government after leading the CDU to its strongest performance since reunification in a federal election last year.
From outside Germany, Angela Merkel has long looked invincible. She has come to symbolise Germany’s political scene as Margaret Thatcher once did Britain’s. But on Monday morning she saw her centre-right coalition narrowly ousted by the opposition centre-left in a regional election that shifts the balance of power in Germany and could have profound implications for her chances of re-election in September. She told a press conference in Berlin that the result in Lower Saxony was “emotionally difficult” to deal with after the “rollercoaster” expectation that the Christian Democrat and liberal Free Democrat (FDP) coalition led by the half-Scottish David McAllister would narrowly succeed. It is a blow to her hopes for a boost as she fights for a third term in office, and as the 12th consecutive defeat for her party at state level it will give the centre-left a majority in the upper house, allowing the opposition to block major legislation or initiate laws that could make Merkel’s life extremely difficult.
On October 14, the regional elections are to take place in 77 regions of Russia. More than 57,000 candidates will be running for different posts in the regional and municipal governing bodies. It is expected that about 28 million Russians will come to polling stations. It will be possible to monitor the elections via the Internet. Many polling stations will be equipped with electronic ballot boxes. What makes the election unique is an unprecedented number of new political parties, which are to take part in it: 25 instead of only 4-7 parties, as it was before.
Russians in a number of regions go the polls on Sunday to elect governors, mayors and provincial legislatures in what was once seen as a critical test for the opposition. Its leaders had hoped at least some victories would provide a political foothold to harness the public displeasure with Vladimir Putin’s return as president that prompted mass protests in December. That’s not going to happen thanks to a campaign by the authorities to strong-arm, cajole and undermine opposition candidates that has forced them back into the political margin. One of the candidates became a prominent opposition leader by launching a movement to stop the felling of parkland trees outside Moscow to make way for a highway. Now running for mayor of her suburb, Yevgenia Chirikova says she is the victim of a plot to stop her from winning. The 35-year-old businesswoman is running third, behind the incumbent and a heavy metal rocker with Kremlin ties who says he would cut down the forest because it’s “dirty.” He’s accused the United States of bankrolling the opposition, a common claim by officials. While it’s undeniable that the protests reflected a change among many who were frustrated and humiliated by the Kremlin’s authoritarianism, they didn’t mean the country had irrevocably changed. Making bold proclamations to that effect is the opposition’s job. Others would be well-advised to heed an unchanging pattern in Putin’s governance since his rise to power a dozen years ago.
Three candidates running for mayor in the Moscow region town of Khimki announced Tuesday that they will withdraw from the high-profile race, one of dozens of local and regional elections slated for Sunday that include the first gubernatorial elections since 2005. Igor Belousov, a former Khimki deputy mayor who became an opposition supporter, said he has decided to quit the race and back acting Mayor Oleg Shakhov, who is supported by the ruling United Russia party. Also exiting the race is Yury Babak, a candidate from the obscure Cities of Russia party who said he would also support Shakhov. The third person to abandon his candidacy Tuesday was Alexander Romanovich of the Just Russia party. Without elaborating, Romanovich said actions by the regional administration were preventing him from running a proper campaign, the party said in a statement.
Russia: Outrageous candidates bring excitement to Russian regional elections | Russia Beyond The Headlines
Elections will be held in Russia this year on Oct. 14 and the races promise to be interesting – not necessarily for political reasons, but because of the personalities who have registered to run for regional office. For example, United Russia’s electoral list for state council in the Republic of Udmurtia includes Envil Kasimov, who is currently a local legislator representing the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, and is notorious for his controversial ideas. For instance, in February 2011, he wrote quite earnestly on his Facebook page that he wanted to become a woman – for the reason that women can retire at 55. Those who know him say Kasimov can come up with a new idea of this sort a couple of times a week, but joining United Russia will likely put a damper on his fertile imagination. While shocking statements are the norm for a member of the Liberal Democratic Party, they are inexcusable coming from a member of the ruling party. “If I become a member of the United Russia faction, I will naturally be bound by party discipline,” Kasimov said, and he has promise to run a campaign based around the preservation of national culture.