Moscow mayor elected for second term as city undergoes groundbreaking changes

Moscow mayor elected for second term as city undergoes groundbreaking changes
Mayor Sergey Sobyanin has been re-elected to office after Sunday’s vote, securing the backing of Muscovites for a major program of city renovation. It was, however, more difficult in the Moscow Region for the incumbent governor.

According to official data, Sobyanin garnered just over 70 percent of the vote, meaning he has secured his new five-year term after the first round.

Communist candidate Vadim Kunin was second in the race but his support was much more modest, winning less than 12 percent of votes. A representative of another leftist party – Ilya Sviridov from the Fair Russia – was third with just over 7 percent and Mikhail Degtyaryov of the populist-nationalist opposition party LDPR came in fourth with under 7 percent, still more than twice what he got in his previous mayoral bid in 2013. Professional developer Mikhail Balakin, backed by the minor party Union of City Dwellers came in last in the race with under 2 percent.

The man who polled strongly in the 2013 election – anti-corruption blogger-turned-opposition activist Aleksey Navalny – could not participate in this year's elections because of an unserved conviction for corruption. Still, Navalny and his allies attempted to affect the situation in the city by launching protests on election day – despite the fact that such action is forbidden by Russian law.

According to the opposition and Moscow police, the number of participants in Sunday’s unsanctioned protests numbered about 2,000. Several senior activists were briefly detained over calls for illegal action and now face civil lawsuits, with court hearings scheduled on Monday. At least two protesters were detained for attacking police and now face criminal charges and punishments of up to five years behind bars.

The turnout at the Moscow mayoral polls was about 30 percent, one of the lowest in modern Russian history. However, election officials and political analysts noted that the low turnout was typical for countries where people are relatively content with the status quo and also for major cities in general. The head of Sobyanin's elections HQ, Konstantin Remchukov, noted that the 2013 mayoral elections had a similar turnout of about 32 percent and large US cities had recently demonstrated similar stats – 28 percent in the recent mayoral elections in New York City and 27 percent in Houston.

Sunday also saw the gubernatorial election in the Moscow Region – the large territory surrounding the Russian capital and the second-most populated area of the Russian Federation with about 7.5 million residents. Here, the incumbent Governor Andrey Vorobyov also won the race but with a more modest 62.5 percent of the vote amid a turnout of just under 38 percent.  Communist candidate Konstantin Cheremisov was second with just under 13 percent and representative of the Alliance of the Greens, Liliya Belova, was third with about 7.5 percent. LDPR candidate Kirill Zhigarev claimed about 5.8 percent of the vote and candidates from the Fair Russia party and the pro-business Party of Growth got under 5 percent each.

The difference can be explained, at least in part, by the fact that over the past six months the Moscow Region saw numerous, intense protests over the construction of landfills and many participants of these events blamed the dire situation in certain districts directly on Governor Vorobyov. The tensions reached their climax in March when Vorobyov attempted to personally intervene and calm the situation. Yet things only got worse when the official was mocked by a 10-year old girl, whose ‘slit-throat’ gesture at Vorobyov was caught on camera and went viral.

In post-election interviews the freshly re-elected Moscow Region governor acknowledged the problems and agreed that his victory was, to a large extent, due to the efforts of his team of political consultants and activists.

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