MOSCOW, April 3 (Itar-Tass) — On Monday the city of Yaroslavl in central European Russia summed up the results of the mayoral election. Self-nominated businessman Yevgeny Urlashov won an overwhelming victory over a nominee from the United Russia party, Yakov Yakushev. Urlashov outran his rival by almost 40 percent. United Russia members expressed confidence that residents of Yaroslavl made a wrong choice and would regret it. Representatives of other parties and local residents on the contrary are confident that the experience of their election campaign will be spread all over Russia. Experts describe the voting as symptomatic and a protest one.
Yaroslavl region governor Sergei Vakhrukov, who did not congratulate Urlashov upon the victory, and the leadership of United Russia, remained dissatisfied with the election returns, the Kommersant business daily reports. “We had a similar situation in Samara, when our candidate lost to his opponent. Sometime after people who simply cast their ballots realize what it means to vote for an unprepared candidate,” the State Duma deputy speaker and secretary of the presidium of the party’s general council, Sergei Neverov, said.
“Another important conclusion is that regions are entering an active political process. The civil society exists not only inside the Moscow Garden Ring, but it became awaken everywhere and began to act,” former presidential candidate and businessman Mikhail Prokhorov, who supported Urlashov, was quoted by the daily as saying. “Centres of political activities grow wider, big cities pass the baton over to smaller ones.”
“The victory in Yaroslavl is a sign for the opposition. This means that United Russia can and should be contested with and defeated,” the leader of Yabloko, Sergei Mitrokhin, said. “I believe that during this election race the authorities feared to use a strong administrative pressure for this not to become a scandalous factor for the whole country.”
The Nezavisimaya Gazeta reminds that the local elections attracted observers’ attention as a result of a row that emerged soon after attempts were taken not to let Urlashov who won the first round to compete in the run-off. On the voting day more than 1,000 observers from different parties and movements gathered at local polling stations. Leaders of the off-parliament and parliamentary opposition went to the city. People from different cities, including Moscow, flew to Yaroslavl shattering by their solidarity a myth on irreconcilable contradiction between the capital and the province.
Experts say that what is going on now is the result of serious shifts in social consciousness. “Earlier a winner always tried to integrate into the ruling party very quickly and United Russia even marked his victory in its reports as its own,” a political analyst from the Moscow Carnegie Center, Nikolai Petrov, said. “It seems that now the trend will be different. Urlashov has already announced that he would not join the ranks of United Russia. Yaroslavl shows a good example, as it has expanded a model of the protest voting. This demonstrates the fact that some recent growth in United Russia’s ratings was most probably virtual than real.”
The federal centre “does not protect United Russia members any more, it has no intention to give the green light to them,” Petrov said. “The Kremlin behaves more cautiously than before, being afraid of an outburst of indignation in the society.”