Cablegate: Tomsk Elections: All Parties in Play, Election

DE RUEHMO #1008/01 0681802
R 091802Z MAR 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

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1. (SBU) With a well-educated population fed by six
universities and at a safe distance from Moscow, the Siberian
region of Tomsk seems tailor-made for liberal-leaning parties
like Yabloko or SPS. Disarray within those parties, a
popular governor allied with the Kremlin-backed party United
Russia, and voter apathy seem likely to ensure that neither
SPS nor Yabloko crosses the seven-percent threshold to
representation in the regional legislature March 11, however.
Among the positive moments in the current campaign: all
eight parties that applied to participate in the election
were registered, as were the lion's share of the
individual-mandate candidates. The notable exception on the
individual candidate list is defrocked Mayor Aleksandr
Makarov whom, observers in Tomsk agree, was corrupt, but also
too ambitious and outspoken for some in the region's
political establishment. End summary.

Parties in Play

2. (U) As in thirteen other regions in Russia, the Tomsk
region is scheduled to hold elections on Sunday, March 11.
At stake are all forty-two seats in the regional legislature.
Twenty-one of the regional deputies will be chosen from
party lists. The remaining twenty-one seats are being
contested by individual candidates. Unlike in other regions
of Russia, all eight parties that applied to be registered
were accepted by the Regional Election Commission. The
participating parties are:

-- United Russia (YR)
-- the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR)
-- the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF)
-- Patriots of Russia (PR)
-- Yabloko
-- the Conceptual Party "Unity" (CPU)
-- the Union of Right Forces (SPS)
-- For a Just Russia (SR)

3. (U) YR, LDPR, and KPRF were automatically registered for
the elections, as they are represented in the State Duma.
PR, Yabloko, and the CPU gathered enough valid signatures to
be registered, while SR and SPS were registered by paying the
required deposit, nine million rubles.

Single-Mandate Races

4. (U) One hundred and three candidates attempted to
participate in the twenty-one single-mandate races. In order
to be registered, candidates were required to either collect
400 valid signatures, or pay a deposit of 900 thousand
rubles. The Regional Election Commission (REC) refused nine
applications. One of the nine was registered after appealing
to court. The candidacy of the most controversial potential
contender, former Mayor Aleksandr Makarov, was rejected by a
district election commission. (Makarov is currently under
investigation and in jail. See paragraph 10, below.) The
commission's decision was overturned by a Tomsk court, but
Makarov was later excluded on the grounds that he had
concealed information about his finances. The other seven
candidates were denied registration on the grounds that they
had failed to collect enough valid signatures. They did not
appeal the REC's decision.

"Locomotives" Head Party Lists

5. (SBU) A number of the parties have attempted to win votes
by having well-known politicians head their lists. The
ever-popular Vladimir Zhirinovskiy is leading LDPR Tomsk into
the elections, and SPS National Chairman Nikita Belykh is at
the top of his party's regional list. The Kremlin-sponsored
YR has not included National Chairman Boris Gryzlov on its
Tomsk list, but it has given the number one spot to Tomsk
Region Governor Viktor Kress, who is believed to be as
popular in the region an President Putin is nationwide.
Zhirinovskiy, Belykh, and Kress have no intention of becoming
regional deputies if their parties cross the seven-percent
threshold. Each would step aside in favor of the number two
candidate on his party's list. A recently-passed Tomsk

MOSCOW 00001008 002.2 OF 004

Region law limits to one the number of prominent candidates
on any list who have no intention of serving if elected,
which has somewhat reduced the role of what in Russia are
called "locomotives," or big-name candidates, in the region's
campaign this time around.

6. (SBU) Although the big names may have no intention of
serving in Tomsk if elected they have been traveling
regularly to the region in support of their respective
parties. Boris Gryzlov visited Tomsk on February 18, where
he promised that the Tomsk Polytechnical University, one of
the city's six universities, would become the third in Tomsk
to be win a state contest for innovative programs, which
brings with it a large amount of money. LDPR Chairman
Vladimir Zhirinovskiy followed Gryzlov into town on February
26. About six thousand spectators massed for his meeting at
the town's largest structure. The SPS's Nikita Belykh also
visited Tomsk in mid-February, as did KPRF Chairman Gennadiy
Zyuganov. The conduct of a visit by SR Chairman Sergey
Mironov, observers say, was marred by the regional
authorities' attempts to prevent him from meeting with

Smear Campaign, Deceptive Advertising

7. (SBU) Dirty tricks have allegedly marred the Tomsk
campaign. SPS has reported inter alia both to Governor Kress
and to the Regional Election Commission (REC) that anonymous
campaign material alleging that the party is in alliance with
disgraced Tomsk Mayor Aleksandr Makarov has been distributed.
Tomsk residents, according to SPS, have also found in their
mailboxes leaflets reporting that the party had hired
HIV-positive campaign workers and that SPS Chairman Belykh is
one of Russia's hated oligarchs. Efforts by local law
enforcement, in tandem with the REC, had led to the
confiscation of campaign materials. The Deputy Chairman of
the REC Eldar Yusybov told Embassy that, as of March 2,
thirty-two complaints had been filed with the Commission.
Most of those, he said, concerned campaign literature, and
were filed overwhelmingly by political parties.

8. (SBU) YR, SPS, and the KPRF complained to the REC that
some of the Kremlin-cozy YR's advertising was deceptive. One
billboard, prominently displayed around town, suggested that,
in casting their votes for YR, Tomskites were voting to
re-elect the Governor. After protests by other parties, the
REC required that the offending advertisement be removed
(although at least one was still visible during Poloff's
March 1 - 2 visit). The remaining YR advertisements that
passed muster with the REC urged voters to "check the box for
(Governor) Kress, and made scant allusion to YR. YR's
attempts to parlay Kress's popularity into votes seemed to
have been supported by President Putin, who on March 5
nominated the Governor for an additional term. (Kress has
been Governor since 1991.) The newly-elected regional
legislature will vote on Kress's candidacy, and YR is
presumably urging voters to ensure that their party is in the
majority if they wish to see Kress remain. Two other parties
--SPS and LDPR-- were quick to attach themselves to Kress's
coattails. Both announced that they would vote for the
Governor, if elected. The KPRF and SR told voters they would
decide after the March 11 elections. (Local observers trace
Kress' popularity to his perceived success in winning
"special economic zone" status for the region, fostering the
growth of institutes of higher education, and having Tomsk
named the site for the July 2006 Russian - German Summit.)

9. (SBU) Campaign billboards for all of the major political
parties lined the streets. LDPR's featured Zhirinovskiy,
while SR's seemed to have been inspired by the
post-Revolution poster art of Vladimir Mayakovskiy, with
workers punching top-hatted capitalists in the nose. Other
SR posters advertised the party as the "new course of the
President." Scattered conversations during the March 1 - 2
visit suggested that Tomskites were coming home each evening
to mailboxes filled with campaign literature.

Mayor Makarov

10. (SBU) Tomsk's Mayor is currently in jail awaiting trial.
His attempts to get on the ballot for the March 11 elections
have apparently been thwarted. Makarov has been accused of
corruption (the police allegedly found USD 2 million in his

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apartment at the time of their surprise search, and he is
alleged to have diverted government land to private
construction projects). Observers polled during Poloff's
visit agree that the Mayor was corrupt but noted that
"everyone in power is" and praised Makarov for his energy.
An informal poll shown on Tomsk's TV-2 during Poloff's visit
had ten thousand respondents supporting Makarov and an equal
number opposed. His mistake, Tomsk observers believe, was to
have vocally opposed federal plans to have mayors appointed
and to have announced his intention to become speaker of the
regional legislature. In setting his cap for the speaker
job, Makarov stepped on the toes of one of Governor Kress's
proteges, the current Speaker Maltsev.

The Media: Tentative

11. (SBU) Contacts suggested that the 2006 amendment to the
law on extremism and amendments to the electoral law had made
coverage of the election more complicated for the media. At
a February 17 meeting of the Tomsk Regional Election
Commission with the media, REC Deputy Chairman Eldar Yusybov
agreed that the law was very complicated and noted that the
mass media was protecting itself by limiting its coverage of
the campaign. The Director of the Tomsk NGO Golos Yelena
Sidorenko held that it was difficult for the media to tell
the difference between "information and agitation." Their
preference, she said, was to pay minimal attention to the
campaign. The Deputy Editor of the analytical weekly Tomsk
News Aleksandr Krasnoperov reported, however, that the law
notwithstanding, he was continuing to publish "edgy"
materials about the campaign. He noted that the law provides
for several warnings before legal action could be taken. His
newspaper, to date, had encountered no problems, he said.

SPS: Demoralized

12. (SBU) The Leader of Tomsk's SPS (and Rector of the
University of Radioelectronics) Anatoliy Kobzev told Poloff
March 2 that he believed YR was the source of much of the
anonymous "dirty tricks" his party had been subject to.
(Kobzev is number two on an SPS party list headed by Party
Chairman Nikita Belykh. Number three on the list is
Radioelectronics Prorector Aleksandr Uvarov. SPS was
fielding no single-mandate candidates.) Kobzev noted that
SPS had run in tandem with Yabloko in the last city council
elections. Together, the parties had garnered 8.57 percent of
the vote. With the amended electoral law prohibiting
electoral blocs, and the Moscow SPS, Yabloko leaderships
unwilling to merge, Kobzev believed that neither Yabloko nor
his party would cross the seven-percent threshold to
representation in the regional legislature.

13. (SBU) Kobzev described no restrictions on media access
"if you have money." His party had little funding and, other
than the television and newspaper space allotted it by law,
SPS campaign advertising was limited to the occasional
billboard, leaflets, and a monthly newspaper "Right Bank."
Kobzev said the SPS Chairman Nikita Belykh had drawn "a small
crowd" during his recent visit to Tomsk. Kobzev reminisced
fondly about the time when Yegor Gaydar and Anatoliy Chubais
headed the party and it was "much more successful." He saw
no way for SPS to counter the money and administrative
resources at the disposal of YR.

Yabloko: Defiant

14. (SBU) If Kobzev was subdued, the contingent from Yabloko
Poloff encountered March 2 was defiant. They reported that
national party Chairman Grigoriy Yavlinskiy would visit Tomsk
March 5 in an attempt to revive a campaign they admitted was
unlikely to succeed. In Yabloko's way, they said were YR's
administrative resources, which gave it the ability to
"confuse voters." (Kobzev reported that Yabloko Tomsk had
virtually ceased to exist as a party following the death in
2000 of then-leader Aleksandr Pletnev. Pletnev had been the
Speaker of the Tomsk Regional Council. With his
disappearance, according to Kobzev, Yabloko had been taken
over by a "criminal," Anatoliy Rybkov, who had undercut the
party's image in Tomsk. In their meeting with Poloff, the
delegation from Yabloko sounded equally negative about SPS,
describing the party as wallowing in "populism."

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YR: Confident

15. (SBU) In a brief, March 1 meeting, YR Duma Deputy
Aleksandr Zharkikh seemed uninformed and unconcerned about
the upcoming elections. He was certain that YR would ride
Governor Kress's coattails to a majority in the regional
legislature. Zharkikh dismissed all competing parties,
including SR, although he acknowledged that the latter had
its "patrons in Moscow."

© Scoop Media

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