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MOSCOW, August 16, /ITAR-TASS/. Regional election race in Russia entered the home stretch on Saturday as candidate have completed registration procedures and are about to begin their campaigning.
The law gives the candidates no more than 28 days for canvassing which is to end a day before the voting day. In all regions, lot drawing ceremonies have been held and free airtime has been allotted to all candidates.
Parties have raised slightly over one billion roubles (over $28 million) for their election campaigns. The Liberal Democratic Party has the largest election fund of about 140 million roubles ($4 million), followed by the ruling United Russia with 105 million roubles ($3 million).
Central Electoral Commission Deputy Chairman Leonid Ivlev said 63 of 69 eligible political parties and 111,000 candidates would take part in the elections slated for September 14.
With Russia’s single voting day just a month away, election campaigns are in full swing in virtually all regions, including Crimea and Sevastopol.
Although these are regional elections, they will assume truly federal dimensions and cover 84 of Russia’s 85 regions where people will be electing 30 governors, 680 regional parliament members, three mayors, and more than 41,000 municipal deputies. With 63 parties and 111 candidates competing, about 50 million people will come to the polling stations.
A total of 207 candidates sought governorship in 30 regions but only 136 of them could pass the “municipal filter”. The candidates represent 24 parties.
Experts questioned by ITAR-TASS said unanimously that the incumbent leaders who had resigned ahead and most of who had been nominated by the ruling United Russia party would have the best chances of success. And yet, competition may get quite fierce in some region.
Konstantin Kostin, head of the Foundation for the Development of Civil Society, said these would be the Altai Territory and Yakutia. “The situation is quite interesting in Murmansk and Krasnoyarsk, where there is an element of uncertainty,” he said.
Alexander Pozharov, deputy director of the Institute of Socioeconomic and Political Studies, said a runoff election could be possible in the Kirov Region but in this case its incumbent Governor Nikita Belykh would easily beat his competitors.
Coalition scenarios become increasingly commonplace in gubernatorial elections. “We can see coalitions of political parties in Primorye, Kirov, Oryol, and Orenburg. While this was an exception before, now there are four regions. In other words, we can see the culture of coalitions evolving,” Kostin said.
United Russia has decided against nominating gubernatorial candidates in the Kirov and Oryol regions and supported self-nominee Belykh and Communist Party candidate Vadim Potomsky.
The elections can be called a dress rehearsal before the Duma elections in 2016 as the winning parties will basically secure themselves the right to compete in federal parliamentary elections without the need to clear additional barriers.
The Duma lower house of parliament is now debating a draft law on elections which may allow parties to nominate candidates in one-man constituencies without collecting signatures if they have a faction in the Duma or regional legislatures.
A total of 33 parties have registered lists of candidates and 30 parties have registered candidates in one-man constituencies.
High activity and an interesting election campaign are expected in Crimea which will be holding its first elections after reunification with Russia in March of this year. Twelve parties have been registered for the elections on the peninsula, where 75 parliament members are to be elected. Sevastopol will be electing deputies to a 24-member city legislature.
According to Alexander Pozharov, deputy director of the Institute of Socioeconomic and Political Studies, main hopes in Crimea are pinned on candidates from United Russia, but other parties, including patriotic ones such as the Communist Party and Rodina (Motherland), are conducting active election campaigns as well.