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Russian paper cautions against using Krasnoyarsk election results as barometer

Text of report by Russian newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta on 17 April

Yesterday [16 April] in Krasnoyarsk Kray the preliminary results of last Sunday's [15 April] elections of legislative assembly deputies were summarized. According to the interim kray electoral commission's data, the region is led by United Russia, which obtained 42.52 per cent of the vote, the CPRF [Communist Party of the Russian Federation] was second (20.32 per cent), and Just Russia was third with 13.41 per cent. The 7 per cent barrier was also cleared by the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) with 11.75 per cent and the Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS) with 7.25 per cent.

Although United Russia entered the elections with an impressive party list headed by kray Governor Aleksandr Khloponin, Krasnoyarsk Kray Legislative Assembly Chairman Aleksandr Uss, and Krasnoyarsk administration head Petr Pimashkov, United Russia obtained its customary 42 per cent. Thus, United Russia obtained 12 seats in the regional parliament via party lists.

The Communists, who win around 13 per cent of the vote throughout Russia as a whole, "shot up," garnering 20 per cent of the vote. The CPRF thus obtained six seats in the kray parliament via party lists.

As regards Just Russia, which won three seats via party lists, according to Just Russia media projects leader Aleksandr Morozov, the party entered the active phase of the election contest late and expected to obtain no more than 11 per cent of the vote. The LDPR and SPS will have respectively three and two seats in the Krasnoyarsk parliament, while the Socialist Unity Party of Russia and Democratic Party of Russia, which failed to clear the 7 per cent threshold, were left without deputies to represent them in the kray legislative assembly.

Aleksey Makarkin, deputy general director of the Centre for Political Technologies, asserts that the Krasnoyarsk voting results indicate a growing mood of protest not only in the kray but also throughout the country as a whole: "Irritation has built up in society and now everybody except United Russia is addressing social themes, berating the bureaucracy and officials. In this sense the party of power has ended up the most vulnerable because it is very difficult for United Russia to oppose this somehow - were it to berate officials, it would have to criticize its own functionaries. The CPRF and LDPR have always exploited moods of protest existing in society but now Just Russia has also started to do so. This is a factor that we will encounter in elections at federal level."

According to interim electoral commission Chairman Konstantin Bocharov, the average turnout was 37.2 per cent. The Krasnoyarsk Kray elections were monitored by Vladimir Churov, chairman of the Russian Federation Central Electoral Commission, and a number of Central Electoral Commission members, who, according to Bocharov, were entirely satisfied with the information support for the elections. The campaign's progress was also monitored by around 10,000 observers, most of whom were representatives of parties. However, according to kray internal affairs main administration reports, almost 20 violations of electoral legislation associated with illegal campaigning were recorded during the voting, and verification of a complaint of voter bribery has begun in Achinsk.

Some party leaders have already expressed their dissatisfaction with the situation in the kray elections. CPRF Central Committee member Oleg Kulikov told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that the current elections are among the dirtiest of recent times: "A slanderous campaign was used against us. We appealed to the kray electoral commission and filed court complaints - nothing helped." SPS regional branch leader Sergey Shakhmatov also informed Nezavisimaya Gazeta of numerous violations during the elections: "Local electoral commissions recorded a lot of violations. For example, voters lists were displayed at one-third of polling places. Young Guard carried out illegal actions at polling places: It handed out invitations to concerts and held lotteries." Shakhmatov drew attention to the fact that quite often the number of citizens on lists and the number of voters who went to vote did not coincide, and that "falsification tends to increase the number of those who voted." According to the SPS leader, "a situation involving the planting of voting papers is evident."

Political commentators often call Krasnoyarsk Kray Russia's "electoral barometer" because the voting results here roughly coincide with average Russian results. But Konstantin Simonov, president  of the Centre for Current Politics in Russia, believes that the results of the elections held in the region do not demonstrate inhabitants' political preferences 100 per cent and cannot indicate how Russians will vote in the Duma elections this December: "In Krasnoyarsk Kray the result for United Russia was shown precisely, it was shown less precisely for the LDPR, and the SPS' position was slightly overstated. The indicators for Just Russia and the Communist Party will be correct only if they are aggregated. The kray can be considered a model for monitoring voters' political preferences only with the kind of adjustments that do not permit precise predictions to be made."

Since the 2004 presidential election it has been possible to say that Krasnoyarsk Kray long ago ceased to mirror the moods of the country's inhabitants. At that time only 60 per cent of voters who went to the polls in the region voted for Vladimir Putin - it was one of the lowest indicators of support for the president in the Russian Federation.

Source:  "Nezavisimaya Gazeta", April 17, 2007

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