Editorials: The Kremlin’s Managed Mayoral Election | The Moscow Times

The most intriguing aspect of the early mayoral election in Moscow is its complete lack of suspense. Almost two weeks have passed since pro-Kremlin Mayor Sergei Sobyanin unexpectedly resigned. He then called for a new election in three months, effectively eliminating any possible competition in the process. The election will be held according to the standard scenario of Russia’s “managed democracy” — that is, by preventing the strongest rivals to Sobyanin from running in the race, guaranteeing low voter turnout and applying the Kremlin’s massive propaganda and administrative resources to manipulate the vote. Civil Platform party leader and billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov was expected to have been Sobyanin’s main rival. During his bid for the presidency in March 2012, Prokhorov received nearly 8 percent of the vote nationally and more than 20 percent among Muscovites.

Russia: Moscow mayor calls snap elections in test for Kremlin | NDTV

The Kremlin-backed mayor of Moscow Sergei Sobyanin Wednesday put his job on the line by calling snap elections two years before his mandate expires, in an apparent bid to outmanoeuvre the opposition after protests rocked the Russian capital. Sobyanin told President Vladimir Putin he was resigning but would himself stand in the elections which would be expected to take place on September 8 when other local polls are held nationwide. The election could set up an intriguing clash between Sobyanin, a technocratic stalwart of the ruling United Russia party, and virulently anti-Kremlin figures like the protest leader and anti-corruption crusader Alexei Navalny.

Russia: Putin submits election law condemned by opponents | Reuters

Vladimir Putin has submitted legislation to change the way the Russian parliament is elected, a move he says will advance democracy but critics say is aimed at bolstering his United Russia party. The bill calls for half of the 450 seats in the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, to be filled by voters choosing individual candidates in districts. Currently all seats are filled by voting for parties. The legislation is expected to pass. The United Russia party, loyal to Putin, has a majority in parliament despite losing seats in the December 2011 election that set off the biggest protests of his 13-year rule.

Russia: Kremlin Slams Embarrassing Report Saying United Russia Lost Elections | Moscow Times

The Kremlin said on March 13 that the author of a report that claims the ruling United Russia party actually lost the 2011 elections to the Communist Party of the Russian Federation thanks to fraud needs “psychiatric help.” The report is surprising and extremely embarrassing, as its conclusions are not in dispute: it is widely accepted that the Duma elections were fixed, which engendered the widely publicized protests in December that year. And it is surprising because the institute, the Governance and Problem Analysis Center (GPAC), is a state-run body that is chaired by state-owned Russian Railways (RZhD) and by its CEO Vladimir Yakunin. While it is highly unlikely that this is a political play by Yakunin to embarrass his masters in the Kremlin — Yakhnin is a consummate politician and former ambassador to the EU — it is interesting that a prestigious state controlled institution has had the shariki to come out with this sort of claim in public. The deputy head of United Russia’s executive committee, Konstantin Mazurevsky, said in a statement on his party’s website that Sulakshin’s report was based on data “snatched out of thin air.” And a senior Russian Railways representative told Interfax that Yakunin, a Putin loyalist, had nothing to do with the report and said his boss could give up his role at the think tank in light of its conclusions.

Russia: United Russia voices cautious support to return of election blocs | RT

Russia’s parliamentary majority said it may be possible to reintroduce party blocs to the Lower House if a law is created that prevents the reorganization of these unions following the elections. At present only separate parties are allowed to run in parliamentary elections, but before the New Year holidays the Russian President ordered his administration together with the Central Elections Commission prepared a bill introducing changes to the Lower House elections system. The new elections rules must allow for the mixed parliamentary structure as they bring back the single constituency candidates and also, possibly, the election blocs – unions of smaller parties that could compete with the large and established ones. Putin also promoted the idea of election blocs in his address to the Federal Assembly delivered on December 12.

Russia: Russian elections underscore problems faced by Putin foes | Reuters

Russian regional elections have tightened Vladimir Putin’s grip on power and underlined opposition failure to build street protest into an effective challenge at the start of the president’s six-year term. Ten months ago, suspicions that fraud propelled Putin’s ruling United Russia party to victory in a parliamentary election brought tens of thousands of people into the streets of Moscow for the biggest protests of his 12 years in power. As United Russia celebrated victory on Monday in local and regional elections that its foes alleged were just as dirty as the December vote, one opposition leader tweeted that nationwide protests were imminent. “The authorities leave the people no choice!” opposition lawmaker and protest leader Dmitry Gudkov wrote on Twitter. The tweet sounded more like a plea than a prediction.

Russia: Putin allies keep hold on power in local Russian elections | LA Times

In local and regional elections marked by low voter turnout and fresh allegations of polling fraud, Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party claimed a landslide victory on Sunday. Putin’s allies preserved their seats in all five of the regional governor’s jobs up for a vote. And United Russia won most of the 4,848 local legislative seats and referendums up for a vote in 77 regions, according to preliminary returns. Some observers called the results a political comeback for the Kremlin party after a poor showing in the national parliamentary election held last December, when it won less than 50% of the vote amid widespread accusations of massive electoral manipulation. Putin thanked voters on Monday. “For me, the results of the vote are not unexpected,” he said in televised remarks. “I think it one more step confirming the voters’ intent to support the current authorities and the development of the Russian statehood.”

Russia: Rampant Vote Rigging in Russian Elections | RIA Novosti

Scandals at the recent parliamentary and presidential elections in Russia failed to discourage the authorities from meddling with the polls, with Sunday’s regional elections fraught with violations, an independent watchdog said Monday. About 850 violations were reported by vote monitors at the regional polls that took place in 77 of 83 Russian regions on Sunday, electoral watchdog Golos said. Main electioneering tricks include obstructing the work of vote monitors, abuse of absentee ballots and multiple voting, the group’s deputy executive director, Grigory Melkonyants, told a press conference in Moscow. These vote rigging tactics are “shamelessly used wherever needed in a blatant and explicit way,” he said. United Russia carried all five gubernatorial polls and won majorities in all seven regional legislatures to undergo a revamp on Sunday.

Russia: Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party wins regional elections | The Washington Post

President Vladimir Putin’s ruling party decisively swept regional elections, according to results tabulated Monday, paradoxically confronting his top-down authoritarian system with a serious challenge. Since December’s parliamentary vote, when large numbers of demonstrators unexpectedly began protesting rigged elections, Putin and his allies have been trying to regain what had been an undisputed grip on power. Sunday’s election would appear to confirm they had done so. The United Russia party won all five governorships at stake and dominated all six regional legislatures up for election, along with a host of municipal councils and mayoralties. Yet political observers called it an illusory victory because serious challengers were kept off the ballot, either through the inventive use of election laws or by secret deals. That meant Putin opponents found no outlet at the polls for their anger. “If the party of power continues playing games with imitation elections,” said Boris Makarenko, an independent political analyst, “the opposition will have to challenge them on the streets instead of at the polls.” Makarenko, chairman of the board of the Center for Political Technologies, said it was in United Russia’s interest to work for political pluralism, to determine the country’s direction through elections. But he was unsure, he said, whether authorities understood that.

Russia: Country Votes in Putin’s First Election Test Since Kremlin Return | Bloomberg

Russians are electing regional and municipal leaders today in the first electoral test for President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to reassert control after the largest protests in more than a decade. In Russia’s first gubernatorial elections in eight years and about 5,000 other polls, contenders backed by the ruling United Russia party may suffer setbacks in at least 10 mayoral and local legislative elections, the Carnegie Moscow Center projects. Governing-party candidates are leading by double-digit margins in all five gubernatorial races, according to the Civil Society Development Fund. Putin, who handed the chairmanship of the United Russia party to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev a year ago, is struggling to reverse a slump in approval ratings that are near the lowest level since mass protests broke out in December. A crackdown has since ensued, including prosecution of opposition activists and leaders, increased fines for unsanctioned rallies and tightened controls over the Internet.

Russia: Elections preserve Putin’s dominance, opponents cry foul | Reuters

The ruling United Russia party won elections around the country on Sunday, early results showed, but opponents alleged widespread violations in the voting that will preserve President Vladimir Putin’s dominance. The first big elections since Putin began a new six-year term in May will do little to appease opponents who say he has used election fraud and suppression of dissent to maintain his grip on power. Results from contests from the Baltic Sea to Kamchatka on the Pacific Ocean showed United Russia had won or was heading for victory in all five provincial governorship races, and in several votes for provincial and city legislatures.

Russia: Putin Loyalists Assert Control in Russian Regional Elections | Bloomberg

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.

Russia: Reported violations mar Russias first polls since Putins return | AFP

Russians on Sunday voted to elect governors and mayors in the first such polls since President Vladimir Putin’s return to the Kremlin, as observers complained of numerous and egregious violations. The government was quick to dismiss claims of voting irregularities, with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev late Sunday saying the polls had been carried out in a “civilised manner”. “As far as I know, nobody found any serious irregularities,” Medvedev said. “This gives hope that in the future, elections will be held in the same civilised and democratic manner.”

Russia: Horse-Trading Positions Kremlin Allies to Win Gubernatorial Races | The Moscow Times

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: Election likely fraudulent, study says | latimes.com

Widespread ballot-box stuffing and fraud likely occurred in the 2012 Russian presidential election that returned Vladimir Putin to the office, according to a new statistical model. The analysis, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also identifies Uganda as a site of widespread election tampering. There have been rumors of election fraud in Russia for the past several elections, and they reached a fever pitch this year. But election fraud is difficult to prove. Past approaches looked for examples of something called “Benford’s law,” which looks for regularities in the numbers reported in elections– like the presence of too many zeros because someone rigging the election prizes multiples of ten. But that approach has been difficult to apply, because it requires that analysts know just how many of each digit are likely to occur in the results of a fair election. The new model, created by a team of Austrian scientists, takes a much more rigorous statistical approach, but it relies on a relatively simple idea: If an election has areas that have extremely high voter turnout — close to 100% — where that turnout is mostly for one candidate, the fix is likely in.

Russia: Kremlin considering resumption of election bloc practice | Russia Beyond The Headlines

The formation of party blocs, which proved efficient in the elections of 1999, may resume with the weakening of the United Russia position, Nezavisimaya Gazeta said on Monday. “The law on election blocs may become a part of Russian politics again in the next election cycle. The Presidential Administration is considering this initiative. The reason is the weakening position of United Russia,” the newspaper said. “The party rating is down, which leads to the downgrading of the national leaders,” it said. “The United Russia bureaucratic foundation is unchanged, and All-Russia People’s Front bound to back up the United Russia authority increasingly separates itself from the party.”

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.

Russia: Election Observers Condemn Local Vote | The Moscow Times

In a stinging rebuke to the authorities and United Russia, election observers said Monday that weekend municipal elections in a provincial town had been too tarnished by fraud to be considered legitimate. The Ryazan region town of Kasimov had turned into a key battleground for the political opposition ahead of Sunday’s vote for the municipal legislature, and activists had hoped to ensure a fair election in this corner of the country following disputed national elections in December and March. According to preliminary results, United Russia won nearly 50 percent of Sunday’s vote, matching its local result in State Duma elections in December, and secured 13 seats in the 20-seat legislature. But monitors said they witnessed numerous offenses, including ballot stuffing, at the town’s 22 polling stations. “There were nearly two serious violations at every station. … The number of violations per voter was unprecedented,” said Sofia Ivanova, regional coordinator of the election watchdog Golos. Pro-United Russia ballot stuffers were caught in the act in at least two polling stations, and observers discovered stacks of votes for the ruling party at several others, she said by telephone.

Russia: Election committee confirms fraud | UPI.com

Roughly 17 percent of the complaints registered with Russian election officials over the March presidential contest were confirmed, authorities said. Vladimir Putin secured a third non-consecutive term in office during March presidential elections. Sergei Danilenko, a Russian election official, said Friday 268 of the 1,564 complaints registered by the Central Election Commission “were confirmed,” reports Russia’s state-run news service RIA Novosti.

Russia: Kremlin bill restoring gubernatorial elections passes in parliament, but barely | The Associated Press

The Russian parliament on Wednesday passed a Kremlin bill restoring gubernatorial elections, with opponents saying the new law will still allow the president to screen out undesirable candidates. The 450-seat State Duma, the elected lower house, approved the bill with 237 votes, just above the simple majority required. President Dmitry Medvedev submitted the bill in response to massive protests against his mentor Vladimir Putin in the run-up to the March election that gave Putin a third presidential term. Putin had scrapped direct elections of provincial governors during his presidency as part of a systematic rollback of democratic freedoms.

Editorials: Russia to elect regional heads; Putin foes cry foul | Reuters

Russian lawmakers approved legislation on Wednesday that will revive elections of regional leaders, but Kremlin opponents said the bill will give President-elect Vladimir Putin and his allies too much power over who is allowed to run. Putin abolished elections of provincial leaders as part of what critics called a rollback of democracy during his 2000-2008 presidency, appointing them instead to give him greater control over far-flung corners of the world’s biggest country. Restoring regional elections is part of a bid to please Russians fed up with their lack of political power and appease foes who staged the biggest opposition protests of Putin’s 12-year rule in recent months. But the bill, passed by a narrow margin in the lower house of parliament where the ruling United Russia party has a slim majority, requires candidates to have support from local legislators or government officials to run.

Russia: Elections Chief Vladimir Churov Admits Astrakhan Violations | The Moscow Times

Elections chief Vladimir Churov raised opposition hopes of overturning Astrakhan’s mayoral election by announcing widespread procedural violations, a claim made by candidate Oleg Shein and his supporters. Video footage revealed procedural violations at 128 of the city’s 202 polling stations during the March 4 vote, although there was no evidence of falsification, Churov told journalists Friday. The announcement was greeted with jubilation by Shein, whose refusal to concede the election to the ruling party candidate and a dramatic hunger strike have turned him into an opposition hero. “Our chances of success in court have been significantly improved,” he wrote on his blog. “Now I’m confident that the court will annul the election in Astrakhan.” Shein says he defeated United Russia’s Mikhail Stolyarov in districts with electronic counting machines as well as in exit polls, sparking allegations that the vote was rigged. Officially, Shein lost the election to Stolyarov by more than 30 percentage points.

Russia: Opposition candidate appears headed to mayor’s office in Russian vote | The Washington Post

In an election that has been intensely watched as a marker for the future direction of Russian politics, an outsider running for mayor of Yaroslavl appeared to be headed for a landslide win Sunday night over the candidate backed by the ruling United Russia party. A victory would give the opposition here a huge, national lift, just three weeks after the election of Vladimir Putin to the presidency demonstrated the continuing durability of the system he has constructed over the past 12 years.  And it presents the authorities — in Yaroslavl, a city of 600,000 about 160 miles northeast of Moscow, and in the Kremlin, as well — an unmistakable reminder that politics in Russia has become considerably more challenging since street protests broke out in September. Late Sunday, Yevgeny ­Urlashov, 44, who ran against corruption and official arrogance, had 67 to 69 percent of the vote, with at least 60 percent counted. His opponent, Yakov Yakushev, the owner of a paint factory, trailed with about 29 percent — virtually the same percentage he polled in the first round of the elections on March 4. Urlashov got 40 percent in that round; two other candidates split the rest.

Russia: Anti-corruption crusader wins Russian mayoral election in victory for opposition | The Washington Post

An anti-corruption crusader has won a landslide victory in a mayoral election in a major Russian city, dealing a painful blow to the powerful pro-Kremlin party and energizing the beleaguered opposition. Yevgeny Urlashov won 70 percent of Sunday’s vote in Yaroslavl, a city of about 590,000 some 250 kilometers (150 miles) east of Moscow, easily defeating the acting mayor, who was the candidate of president-elect Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party. Urlashov’s victory reflects growing public irritation with official corruption and social inequality. And it gives new hope to Russia’s opposition, which has struggled to maintain momentum after Putin won a third presidential term last month. Opposition leaders have urged their supporters to focus on local elections, and Urlashov’s victory in Sunday’s poll will likely bolster that strategy.

Russia: Election ‘clearly skewed’ for Putin: OSCE | BBC

Russia’s presidential elections were “clearly skewed” in favour of the winner, Vladimir Putin, monitors with the Organization for Security and Co-operation (OSCE) have said. Preliminary results showed that Mr Putin, who is currently prime minister, won more than 63% of votes. There have been widespread claims of fraud and vote violations, and the OSCE said the result was “never in doubt”. Opposition groups have called for mass protests against Mr Putin’s win. In a statement, the OSCE said while all candidates had been able to campaign freely, there had been “serious problems” from the start, conditions were “clearly skewed in favour of one of the contestants, current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin”.

Russia: Putin Warns Against Election Dirty Tricks | RIA Novosti

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Wednesday warned against the use of “dishonest” political tricks ahead of the March presidential elections.
“It’s very important to fight against dishonest methods of political combat, especially when the elections are already labeled unfair and illegitimate before they even took place,” Putin said during a meeting with young lawyers in Moscow. Putin, who held the presidential post from 2000 to 2008, is widely predicted to win the March vote, however, analysts suggest growing discontent could see him forced into a runoff. Claims of vote rigging during December’s parliamentary elections sparked mass street protests against the prime minister and his United Russia party.

Russia: Council of Europe blasts Russia over disputed ballot | Deutsche Welle

Council of Europe election observers have said that Russia needs real political change following the country’s disputed general election. Thousands gathered on Saturday for an anti-Putin protest outside the Kremlin. Speaking ahead of a presentation of its final report in Strasbourg on Monday, the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly delegation said Russia needs real political change, not a “survival mechanism” for the current regime. The group, which observed last month’s controversial parliamentary elections, was speaking in Moscow as thousands gathered near the Kremlin to demand fair presidential elections on March 4.

Russia: All Clear For Russian Election Official At Center Of Voter Scandal | Forbes

Vladimir Churov, the head of the Russian Election Commission who was put in the unsavory spot of being labeled the “wizard” of alleged voter fraud in the Dec. 4 Parliamentary elections, looks to be free and clear from impropriety. Churov asked election commission officials to consider a vote to remove himself from his position, but only four out of the 15 commission members voted in favor of even considering the issue in the first place, Ria Novosti reported on Thursday. As a result, without any political pressure from the top at the Kremlin, Churov is safe and sound.

Russia: Moscow protest: Thousands rally against Vladimir Putin | BBC

Tens of thousands of people have rallied in central Moscow in a show of anger at alleged electoral fraud. They passed a resolution “not to give a single vote to Vladimir Putin” at next year’s presidential election.

Protest leader Alexei Navalny told the crowd to loud applause that Russians would no longer tolerate corruption. “I see enough people here to take the Kremlin and [Government House] right now but we are peaceful people and won’t do that just yet,” he said.

Demonstrators say parliamentary elections on 4 December, which were won by Mr Putin’s party, were rigged. The government denies the accusation.

Russia: Kremlin nervous as protesters return to streets | The Guardian

Tens of thousands of Russians are expected to take to the streets on Saturday despite Kremlin efforts to ease tensions over disputed elections and Vladimir Putin’s expected return to the presidency. More than 50,000 people have indicated their intention to attend a protest on Moscow’s Sakharov Prospect, named after the late leading Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov. Thousands more have signed up via social networking sites for protests in more than 80 Russian cities.

The protesters are hoping to capitalise on the momentum launched earlier this month, when up to 50,000 people turned out in Moscow alone demanding the Kremlin overturn parliamentary election results that saw Putin’s United Russia take a majority in the Duma despite widespread accusations of fraud.

The former Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev, the novelist Boris Akunin, the anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny and Ksenia Sobchak, the Russian “It Girl” and daughter of Putin’s mentor, are among those expected to address the crowd. Protesters will don white ribbons to symbolise their opposition to the election results, which they say are a sign of their country’s lack of democracy. The oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov, who is running against Putin, also said he would address the rally.