MOSCOW, December 13 (Itar-Tass) — The presidential race in the breakaway Dniester region ended with a high-profile scandal and may grow into street protests. The incumbent president of the unrecognized republic, Igor Smirnov, demanded cancellation of the election returns that had not been even made public, while the central election commission decided to keep secret the results until Wednesday. Smirnov’s opponents – ex-parliamentary speaker Yevgeny Shevchuk and Moscow-backed parliamentary speaker Anatoly Kaminsky demanded public declaration of the results and announced they entered the run-off race.
The Dniester region that held the presidential election on Sunday is submerging into a political chaos, Kommersant wrote. The incumbent president filed a many-page complaint to the central election commission demanding it to recognize the voting as invalid over multiple violations. Igor Smirnov, who has been ruling the republic over the past 20 years and who won all previous races, for the first time in his career appealed against the election returns. He took this step soon after the headquarters of his opponents – independent candidate Yevgeny Shevchuk and parliamentary speaker Anatoly Kaminsky, who leads the Renovation party – announced that their politicians entered into the run-off election.
“The preliminary results of our headquarters after 99 percent of ballot papers had been counted show that Shvechuk received support of 95,062 voters, Kaminsky and Smirnov – around 65,000 voters each (a total of 404,000 voters were registered in the republic). It is being specified who will be the second contender in the race. I sincerely thank our allies and citizens of the Dniester region who supported our program of actions,” Shvechuk wrote on his Facebook page. These figures drastically differ from the exit polls made public late on Sunday. According to them, Igor Smirnov gained 47 percent of votes, while Shevchuk and Kaminsky – 23 percent and 22 percent respectively. The central election commission that should make things clear on the election landscape kept itself aloof promising to make public the results only on Wednesday. Smirnov’s opponents expressed indignation over the results’ concealment.
Smirnov has been ruling the republic since its creation in 1991 and was nominated for presidency for the fifth time, the Vedomosti business daily reminded. Moscow opposed his re-election. The head of the Russian president’s administration, Sergei Naryshkin, said it is high time for Smirnov to retire on a pension and Kaminsky is “a decent candidate.” In October and December Russia’s investigative committee instituted two criminal cases against the president’s son, Oleg Smirnov, and plans to put him on the international wanted list.
On Monday, the Russian Foreign Ministry made no comments on the Dniester region’s election. Vladimir Zharikhin of the CIS Institute told the daily that all candidates in the Dniester region are pro-Russian and it is better for Moscow to wait for the declaration of the election returns. If Smirnov fails to enter the run-off race, Moscow’s minimal task can be considered fufilled, but a future partner should be transparent and predictable, while some recent actions of Shevchuk (withdrawal from the Renovation party that has connections with United Russia) raise questions, the political scientist said. Shevchuk himself said he would do his utmost to restore the Russian authorities’ confidence in the republic.
The director of the International Institute of the Newest States, Alexei Martynov, was cited by Nezavisimaya Gazeta as saying that the central election commission will most probably announce the election returns and the date of the run-off soon after it considers complaints not only filed by Smirnov, but also other candidates. International observers will prevent any distortion of the results – it is necessary to check every step under the conditions of illegitimacy. Otherwise, “the Dniester region can lose everything it had accumulated for 20 years,” Martynov said. Smirnov’s attempt to remain in power can cause the development of events on the South Ossetian scenario and “the loss of the Dniester region’s statehood.”
If the central election commission announces the results of the first round, the run-off election should take place in two weeks. It will be declared as valid, if more than 25 percent of voters cast their ballots. A winner will be decided by a simple majority of votes. The Dniester region’s central election commission promises to sort out Smirnov’s complaint on Wednesday.