“Locomotives” versus “planes” on single voting day

Russian voters have cast their ballots in a record 7,800 elections, with more than 100,000 candidates for seats in regional and municipal legislatures.

Elections were held on October 10 in 77 regions, with all of the seven registered parties taking part in the polls. On the municipal level, more than 49,000 deputies and 2600 heads of local councils will be elected.

Analysts consider the current elections as the preparation for the “decisive battle” for the seats in the Russian parliament, due in a year’s time.

The parties represented in the lower house, the State Duma, are taking part in elections held in all the six federal districts. The Patriots of Russia party will take part in the elections in four districts, the Right Course Party in two, and the liberal Yabloko party in one.

This time, these three parties not represented in the parliament have nominated many times more candidates than during the previous elections. But their numbers are still too low, observers note.

During the single voting day people in the Republic of Tuva, in Belgorod, Kostroma, Magadan, Novosibirsk and Chelyabinsk regions will elect deputies of local legislative bodies.

A tough struggle is expected for mayors of Samara and Makhachkala. In addition to these cities, elections of municipal legislative assemblies are being held in 14 capitals of Russian regions, including Izhevsk, Kazan, Krasnodar, Kaluga, Kostroma, Magadan, Nizhny Novgorod, Orenburg, Rostov-on-Don, Tambov, Tomsk and Cheboksary.

The Central Elections Commission has promised to establish additional control over the elections in regions from where the largest number of complaints come, Itar-Tass reported. Among them are the Stavropol Region, the republics of Dagestan and Tuva, the Novosibirsk Region and several others. In Dagestan’s Derbent, voters are participating in the re-run of the mayoral election as the last year’s poll was marked by a scandal.

The parties did not manage to show new strategies that they promised to demonstrate during the campaign, the media say.

Nevertheless, representatives of the ruling United Russia party have said they are expecting to garner no fewer than half of the votes during the regional elections. They also responded to other parties, accusing them of using the so-called “locomotives,” or prominent party figures who work in Moscow, but head the lists of candidates in regional elections.

As a rule, such candidates do not enter regional bodies even if elected, but they may attract voters to polling stations.

Leaders of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party and the Fair Russia party, Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Sergey Mironov, are heading lists of candidates in several regions, Sergey Neverov, deputy secretary of the presidium of United Russia, told reporters. “They are not even ‘locomotives,’ they are ‘planes’ that are flying from one region to another,” he noted.

Valery Galchenko, deputy head of United Russia’s executive committee, says he trusts recent polls saying that the ruling party will receive at least half of the seats in regional legislative and municipal bodies.

He also stressed the fact that other parties have nominated too few candidates for seats in regional bodies. “In this sense, the elections leave no alternative,” he observed.

The communists have nominated more candidates than other opposition parties, but even they are trailing behind United Russia.

Ivan Melnikov, the deputy chairman of the Communist Party told reporters that “the lion’s share” of time was spent on countering the pressure from local administrations, referring to their support for the ruling party.

“As for our tasks, we have the same minimal goal – to be better than during the previous similar elections, and the maximal aim is to win,” Melnikov said.

However, representatives of United Russia have an explanation as to why their opponents cannot rely on a big success. A total of 9,947 polling stations are working around the country, Neverov said. The second largest number of candidates “has been nominated by the communists, but there are only 5,180 of them,” he noted. United Russia has nominated candidates for 94 per cent of seats to be filled.

According to preliminary results, United Russia has won all the regional elections held on Sunday. The party got most votes – more than 78 per cent – in the Republic of Tyva, and even its worst result in Novosibirsk region is nearing 50 per cent of the vote.

In other regions United Russia’s candidates got more than 50 per cent. The party also was first in almost all mayoral elections, including one in Samara, where Dmitry Azarov won.

The Communist Party deputies managed to make it to legislative bodies in Novosibirsk Region (where it showed its best result – more than 26 per cent), Magadan, Chelyabinsk and Belgorod regions.

The Liberal Democratic Party was most fortunate in Magadan Region with more than 13 per cent of the vote, and also entered legislatures in Novosibirsk, Chelyabinsk and Belgorod regions.

The Fair Russia party deputies will work together with United Russia in Tyva. In Novosibirsk and Chelyabinsk regions they got more than 16 per cent, and were also successful in Magadan Region.

Boris Gryzlov, State Duma speaker and the head of United Russia’s Supreme Council, has said the party has improved its result compared to the similar elections held in other regions last year.

The Communists remain the main rival of the ruling party, secretary of the presidium of United Russia’s general council Vyacheslav Volodin said on Monday, commenting on the results. The Liberal Democratic Party usually holds the third or fourth position, he noted.

According to Volodin, United Russia primarily owes its victory to people’ trust in the policies of President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

“United Russia is the party of Medvedev and Putin,” Itar-Tass quoted Volodin as saying. Both leaders “granted the right to the party to use his photos and statements at all regional elections,” he noted.

The Communists are generally satisfied with the preliminary results, the party’s chairman Gennady Zyuganov has said. “We have achieved better results in all major regions than at the previous elections,” he told reporters on Sunday.

At the same time, Zyuganov described the latest campaign as “the dirtiest one.” He promised to protest against “techniques” used by the ruling party. But representatives of United Russia have accused their rivals of using similar tactics.

Sergey Mitrokhin, the head of the liberal Yabloko party, also said that lawsuits over irregularities during the elections could be filed.

The biggest number of complaints has come from Belgorod Region, where United Russia got almost 70 per cent.

The parties that are not represented in the State Duma have not entered any regional legislature, according to the election results.

Sergey Borisov, RT