Sochi ballot over, time for complaint spree

As pro-Kremlin candidate Anatoly Pakhomov celebrates a landslide victory in the election for Sochi mayor, also-rans have begun complaining about the campaign and balloting.

For Pakhomov, a member of the ruling United Russia party, and acting mayor of the Olympic host for the 2014 Winter Games, Sunday’s election was a vote of confidence for the residents. According to official results, he won almost 77% of the votes, far surpassing the 50% +1 vote needed to avoid a second round.

“The fact that Anatoly Pakhomov won in the first round with a great advantage speaks of the big credit of trust that voters gave him personally, and the party which selected him as its candidates," said Boris Gryzlov, head of the party’s faction in the Parliament.

Gryzlov said the new mayor will have a very difficult job supervising construction projects for the upcoming Olympics. But the defeated candidates and their allies have a darker view of the poll. They say the election campaign was not fair, and believe the large number of people who chose to cast their votes early was suspicious, implying that there were violations with the voting.

“We all have reasons to say that there was no election in Sochi. Rather, it was an appointment masqueraded by the ballot,” said communist MP Sergey Obukhov.

Obukhov, who coordinates electoral campaigning for communists in Russia, called the election “an example of managed democracy."

He said, “When a third of the voters is pressured to cast ballots early, when opposition candidates don’t have equal access to the media, there can be no talk about a free and democratic election.”

According to the Sochi election commission, some 10% of the people cast votes early with a total turnout of 38.6%.


Boris Nemtsov

Liberal opposition nominee Boris Nemtsov, who ended second in the poll with 13.5% of the vote, had been complaining of mass violations ever since the start of the campaign.

“This is not an election, this is fraud. Because of manipulation, because of censorship,” he said prior to the voting date.

Shortly after the balloting was over, Nemtsov’s team published their variant of exit polls, where Pakhomov received 46% of the votes, while his main rival had 35%. They said the numbers didn’t take into account early voting, and reflected true public opinion. Team head Ilya Yashin said they would press for a second round of voting.

But at least one warning by the opposition leader proved a great exaggeration. He said the authorities were “planning massive fraud” by granting the vote to holders of Russian passports in Abkhazia, who were registered in Sochi.

On Sunday, just four people came to the ballot station opened there.

According to the election commission, only minor violations were registered during the election. None of them affected the results.