Results of regional elections that were held in Russia this Sunday are the main topic of Russian newspapers Tuesday and, quite naturally, analysts give the biggest share of attention to Moscow City. They point out a remarkably transparent character of the election campaign here.
Acting Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, a representative of the pro-government quarters who was running for the office as a self-nominee, won in the first round by getting 51.27% votes. His main contender Aleksey Navalny, the leader of Russia’s off-parliament opposition, came second with 27.3% votes - a result that surprised many.
“Fair elections” became a guideline for the United Russia Party back a year ago, that is, on the previous Unified Day of Voting in 2012 when the ruling party hoped to win the election “without stuffing extra ballots into the ballot boxes at polling stations and re-writing of the protocol of vote counting in the middle of the post-election night,” Kommersant daily writes. “In other words, the task was to win without blunt falsifications and thus to avoid Bolotnaya Square protests of the type that broke out after election to the State Duma in December 2011.”
Kommersant daily also quotes the observers from opposition parties who said United Russia had used intensively the procedures of the electoral process different from voting as such in order to get the necessary result. The strongest of competitors were denied registration as candidates in a number of regions or were taken off the race when it was already in progress. Local media outlets would refuse to cover the elections and would not place the electoral promotions, while the candidates representing parties would reject televised debates almost everywhere.”
Moscow City where even the most notorious contender of Acting Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, Aleksey Navalny was admitted to the race made up an exception from the general picture this time.
Personalities outweigh parties, suggests a conclusion drawn by Nezavissimaya Gazeta. It is a new trend that took shape in the course of this election race, which could hardly be described as regional, since its outcome has a direct bearing on the positioning of political force on the political scene, the newspaper says. Few people would really give attention to party brands but the demand for personalities grew notably and especially in what concerned the radical politicians. It was not a battle of parties. It was the famous people with a menu of concrete actions in their personal records who fought for the electorate.
The transparency of this year’s campaign and the moderate use of administrative levers by the powers that be have spotlighted a number of special features of Russia’s current political system, Nezavissimaya Gazeta says.
It was believed for quite some time that colorful individuals were not needed in politics anymore. Hence the vagueness of structure and leadership of United Russia, for instance.
The newspaper believes the small political parties have failed to grow out of political shorties and the miniscule new structures have turned into spoilers constantly getting in the way of their big brothers. Amid the airless political atmosphere, a part of the opposition-minded electorate oriented at the self-nominees who had at least some record of counteraction to the authorities.
The author of the article says few of the people who cast ballots in favor of Aleksey Navalny could actually recall that he was running on the ticket of RPR-PARNAS party. People gave their voices to a man fighting with corruption, a nationalist, a blogger, and a radical who had managed to rally young people around him.
Lev Gudkov, the Director-General of Levada Center believes that the Navalny effect stemmed from the assembling of everyone discontent with the current situation around him.
Lawyers and experts are not unanimous regarding Alexei Navalny’s future destiny, as he took part in the election of Moscow Mayor when he had already been awarded a jail term of five years for embezzlement, Izvestia daily writes. In addition, the Investigations Committee has stepped up the actions under another two criminal cases that feature Navalny and that may entail new court trials.’
The intrigue around the destiny of the off-parliament opposition leader and blogger may be resolved by the regional court in the city of Kirov in the short term, as the appeals over the sentences passed on Navalny and his business companion Pyotr Ofitserov earlier have already been submitted to that court. Experts point out the availability of two main scenarios, along which the developments around Navalny might unfold.
“It’s either soft of tough,” the newspaper quotes political scientist Stanislaw Belokowksi. “The soft implies negotiations with Navalny for the purpose of lifting tensions. The basic condition these talks will hinge on will be a suspended term, and the registration of Navalny’s Popular Alliance party will be a supplementary condition.”
An alternative /tough/ scenario implies that the appeals instance of the regional court reaffirms Navalny’s guilty verdict.
Whatever the ending the situation with the sentence already issued to Navalny, the immediate future may have new court trials in store for him. Izvestia says the Investigations Committee has stepped up the investigation of two criminal cases featuring Aleksey and his brother Oleg.
The first case is related to stealing 100 million rubles /around $ 3 million/ from the Union of Right-Wing Forces party, which became a subject of the criminal case upon charges of swindling and embezzlement in December 2012.
The second case was also instituted in December 2012. Investigators say Aleksey Navalny created a limited liability partnership called the Main Subscriptions Agency then, while Oleg, who was the director of internal postal services department at the Russian Post federal enterprise in 2008 convinced the famous producer of health and beauty products Yves Roche East company to sign agreements on cargo with his brother’s company. Investigators say the brothers embezzled about 55 million rubles, which Yves Roche remitted to it for the haulage of commodities.
Nezavissimaya Gazeta has found out that a criminal case may be opened this week against RPR-PARNAS party chairman Boris Nemtsov, who is charged with assaulting an activist of the pro-Kremlin Stal youth movement, Artyom Kozlov. The incident occurred at a rally in defense of the former mayor of the city of Yaroslavl, Yevgeny Urshalov, who had been arrested. The action was held in Yaroslavl last Thursday. It the case gets the green light, Nemtsov may lose a mandate of the Yaroslavl regional Duma deputy, which he received just recently.
Boris Nemtsov told the newspaper that he had reemerged like the secular bird, since a seat in the Yaroslavl region legislature became his first victory since 1999.