Regional heads and State Duma MPs dominate United Russia’s primaries

Primaries are a novelty in Russian politics (RIA Novosti / STF)
Governors, mayors and current deputies reportedly lead in the primaries organized by the ruling party and the All-Russia Popular Front.

­So far, representatives of public organizations are lagging behind their competitors from United Russia in the primaries for the Popular Front – both led by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. He had previously stated that representatives of these organizations may receive a quarter of the seats on United Russia’s party ticket for elections to the State Duma.

Elections are scheduled for December, and the front is still open to individuals who have not joined the ruling party, as well as public organizations. The people’s primaries, as the party calls them, are supposed to find “new faces and ideas.”

However, representatives of public organizations have had a hard time competing with candidates from the party’s regional branches. The only exception would be the primaries in the Lipetsk Region, which are led by a representative from Opora Russia, a union of small and medium-sized business. But the situation there may change as well, the local members of United Russia have said.

Regional branches of the Popular Front, which were organized on the initiative of the prime minister, started their primaries on July 21. Voters from the party and organizations that joined the front are currently selecting candidates that could be included in United Russia’s slate for elections to the parliament. The party’s leadership reserves the right to include their candidate on the list.

The current and former governors lead the primaries in the Altai Region, the Republic of Yakutia, the Khabarovsk Region, the Omsk Region, the Republic of Altai, the Magadan Region, and the Ulyanovsk Region, according to Kommersant daily. In many places, they are being lead by current State Duma deputies, like in Altai Region, where Sergey Neverov, the acting secretary of the presidium of United Russia’s general council, is likely to win the primaries, along with Governor Aleksandr Karlin.  

Primaries are a novelty in Russian politics, and incumbent deputies from the State Duma or local legislative bodies seem better prepared for tough competition. They lead the selection process in the city of St. Petersburg, as well as in the Volgograd, Nizhny Novgorod and the Samara regions.  

Russian voters already got used to seeing well-known sportsmen among the candidates. This election season will not be an exception. Anton Sikharulidze, a Russian figure skater, is taking part in the primaries in St. Petersburg, tennis player Marat Safin – in the Nizhny Novgorod Region, wrestler Aleksandr Karelin – in the Novosibirsk Region, and ice hockey goalkeeper Vladislav Tretyak – in the Ulyanovsk Region.  

Meanwhile, some government ministers are ready to head the regional tickets of United Russia’s candidates. Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Zhukov confirmed on Monday that he will lead one such list, though he did not name the region.  Zhukov is responsible for preparations for the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014.

First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov had earlier agreed to head the list of United Russia’s candidates in the Volgograd Region.