Russia voting: First post-reform gubernatorial elections in 7 years

The ruling United Russia party is winning elections around the country, as early results show a commanding lead. Some 5,000 elections were held, as tradition has it, on the second Sunday of October.

Russia’s Central Election Commission considered the votes successful, saying that only minor violations were reported. In total the CEC received 55 complaints.

Overall, United Russia leads in six regions of the country.

In the Sakhalin region, after counting more than 95 per cent of the ballots, it seems that the regional parliament will consist of a four-party system with Uniting Russia taking the helm with 49.24 per cent, the Communist Party with 18.24 and the Russian Liberal Democratic Party with 8.64, just ahead of Just Russia at 7.4 per cent.

The country’s main party is showing similar performances in North Ossetia-Alania, Udmurtia, the Krasnodar region, Penza, and Saratov.

More than 22 million Russians – one-fifth of the country's registered voters – were eligible to participate in local elections, according to the Central Election Committee. The 4,814 regional and municipal elections took place in 77 of the country’s 83 regions.

Over 27,000 polling stations opened their doors to voters on Sunday. Of the 40 political parties currently registered in Russia, 26 participated Sunday, a significant jump from recent years. A reform enacted last year greatly simplified party registration, and dozens of new factions are still popping up across Russia.

The regions of North Ossetia, Udmurtia, Krasnodar, Penza, Saratov and Sakhalin held elections for their respective parliamentary bodies.

The Amur, Bryansk, Ryazan, Belgorod and Novgorod regions also voted for new governors. This comes after a political reform that re-introduced the direct elections of regional heads in Russia after a seven-year break. Before that, governors were chosen by regional parliaments among several candidates offered by the Kremlin.

­Both reforms came after a wave of protests last December, the largest in Russia’s recent history. One demand was the liberalization of the political system, and in a bid to appease protesters, then-president Dmitry Medvedev amended Russia's electoral laws.

RIA Novosti drone camera′s view of a rally For Honest Election protesting following the 6th convocation State Duma election in 2011.(RIA Novosti)
RIA Novosti drone camera's view of a rally For Honest Election protesting following the 6th convocation State Duma election in 2011.(RIA Novosti)

“The introduction of elections of regional governors is now being implemented gradually. This is a very important step in the creation of a civil society and civil institutions. It gives more responsibility to the voters and could also raise the level of professionalism of the elected officials,” Aleksey Mukhin, head of the consulting company Center for Political Information told RT.

The mayoral election in the town of Khimki, near Moscow, is of particular interest to political junkies. Popular opposition activist Evgenia Chirikova is vying against the United Russia-endorsed Oleg Shakhov, and both candidates are confident that they will be victorious.

“We are destined to win,” Chirikiova said. “Sooner or later we will have self-governance and will decide what we have in front of our windows – yards or landfills. I am in a gracious, good mood. We are absolutely certain in victory.”

Shakhov was equally optimistic: “I am in fine spirits. I expect only victory, like an athlete in the wake of the final event,” he said.

But with 70 per cent of the votes counted, the United Russia candidate is way ahead. Shakhov so far has 47.7 per cent, while Chirkiova is tracking thirty percentage points behind.

Thirteen people were running for mayor in Khimki.