United Russia’s Popular Front will fight falsifications at primaries

The primaries show that they are not just a formality, United Russia’s leadership says (RIA Novosti / Aleksandr Kryazhev)
The ruling party will create a body to consider the complaints of candidates on its election roster, as it holds its first ever primaries.

­The special commission will deal with any and all complaints coming from candidates participating in the primaries of United Russia and the newly formed Popular Front, a movement created under the initiative of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.  The complaints have reportedly been coming from different regions, and the party has decided that immediate measures are needed.

Competition is tight as members of the ruling party have to defend their programs along with representatives of public organizations and individuals who joined the front. The newly created commission will has to consider at least 36 complaints that have already been filed, and 27 factually substantiated violations which have occurred during the primaries as reported in the mass media.

About 30 complaints have been recognized as well-grounded, Aleksey Chesnakov, head of United Russia’s public council, told Kommersant daily. But he added that some of the complaints are not impartial, as all the candidates believe they should win more votes.

Elections to the State Duma are scheduled for December. A quarter of seats on United Russia’s roster of about 600 candidates will be given to representatives of the Popular Front who, while not members of the ruling party, share its program. Voters who are assessing the platforms of the candidates in the primaries also represent both the party and the front.

United Russia’s candidates reported violations during primaries in the Perm, Amur, Nizhny Novgorod regions and the Republic of North Ossetia. There were also conflicts between local candidates and representatives from other regions.

In the Orel Region, a scandal broke surrounding the alleged falsification of the primaries’ results in favor of Governor Aleksandr Kozlov and a State Duma deputy from the Nizhny Novgorod Region, Roman Antonov. But a local deputy, Pavel Merkulov, one of those behind a complaint submitted to the party’s leadership, suddenly started to defend the primaries. In a recent address, he blasted a campaign in the mass media “directed at discrediting the process.” He said it was not proper to discuss internal party affairs in public.    

However, the party’s leadership says the complaints only show that the primaries – a novelty in Russian politics – demonstrate they are not just a formality. If they were held without any problems, it would be strange, Chesnakov maintained. In the future, everything will be “even more transparent,” he added.