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Cablegate: March 11 Regional Elections: Final Snapshot

VZCZCXRO0152
RR RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHPOD RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #1431/01 0891343
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 301343Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8823
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHLN/AMCONSUL ST PETERSBURG 3927
RUEHYG/AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG 2333
RUEHVK/AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK 2017

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 001431

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM PHUM RS
SUBJECT: MARCH 11 REGIONAL ELECTIONS: FINAL SNAPSHOT

MOSCOW 00001431 001.2 OF 003


1. (SBU) Summary: The results of the March 11 regional
elections suggest that the success of the Kremlin's
experiment in managed democracy has come at the (minor)
expense of the United Russia (YR) party. For A Just Russia
(SR) (the other Kremlin-backed party) and the Communist Party
(KPRF) emerged from the regional contests satisfied with
their comparatively strong, and in the case of the KPRF,
surprising, results. Vladimir Zhirinovskiy's LDPR was
broadly weaker than in the last Duma election, but still on
the board in most contests, leaving it, YR, SR, and the KPRF
virtually certain to cross the threshold to representation in
the December Duma elections. The prospects of the Union of
Right Forces (SPS) are less certain, although the party's
new-found populism and, some argue, a green light from the
Kremlin allowed it to gain representation in four of the
fourteen contests held March 11. Although SPS is contesting
the results of some of the regional elections, decisions on
its appeals are unlikely to cause major adjustments in the
make-up of the regional legislatures. End summary.

---------------------------------
United Russia: Victorious, But...
---------------------------------

2. (SBU) Instead of elation, the Kremlin-sponsored United
Russia's (YR) March 11 sweep of all fourteen regional races
has produced some disappointment in the party. Regional
leaders in Orel and Stavropol, where YR did worse then
predicted, have been criticized and some have termed YR's
lower than predicted numbers a "defeat" for the party.
Despite 615.8 million rubles in financing (50 percent more
than its most serious competitor, For A Just Russia) and near
unfettered access to administrative resources, YR did more
poorly in four regions (Leningrad, Orel, Samara, and
Stavropol) than in the 2003 State Duma elections.

---------------------------
Just Russia: Pleasing Debut
---------------------------

3. (SBU) With a first place finish in Stavropol (although
YR's strong showing in the region's single-mandate races
ultimately allowed it to claim victory) and a second-place
finish in five other regions, the Kremlin-sanctioned party
For A Just Russia (SR) has positioned itself to be YR's chief
rival in the December State Duma elections. Helping SR get
on the scoreboard just four months after being created were
established membership lists (SR was fashioned from three,
pre-existent parties -- Rodina, the Russian Party of
Pensioners, and the Russian Party of Life), ready access to
the media, prominent national and regional politicians, deep
pockets, and limited access to administrative resources.

4. (SBU) In a post-election conversation, SR International
Department Director Mikhail Demurin told us that votes for
his newly-fledged party had come from former YR supporters
and those opposed to YR's continued dominance. Demurin
agreed that SR had failed to accomplish part of its mission,
which reportedly was to subtract votes from the Communist
Party (KPRF).

------------------------
KPRF: Strategy Validated
------------------------

5. (SBU) The KPRF was buoyed by its higher-then-expected
election results (reftel). Mercator Group President Dmitriy
Oreshkin agreed that KPRF's performance had been the one
election surprise. KPRF Deputy Chairman Ivan Melnikov
asserted that the party on March 11 had increased its share
of the vote from 10 - 15 percent to 15 - 20 percent. KPRF's
improvement in the polls has been variously traced to protest
votes, the party's traditionally disciplined voters, and a
degree of success in getting young people to the polls.
KPRF's forceful protests of the initial results in Dagestan,
where it was originally reported to have won 6.79 percent of
the vote, led to a recount, which got it over the seven
percent threshold and into the regional legislature, making
it the only party to join YR in all fourteen legislatures.

-------------------
LDPR: Not "Too Bad"
-------------------

6. (SBU) LDPR Duma Deputy Aleksey Mitrofanov summarized the
party's results as "not bad." (The party won representation
in 11 regional legislatures, but polled somewhat more poorly
than it had in earlier elections.) Mitrofanov was pleased,

MOSCOW 00001431 002.2 OF 003


however, that LDPR had exceeded ten percent in most contests
and nudged the 14 percent mark in others. The one shock had
been Moscow region, where LDPR polled 6.81 percent.
Mitrofanov termed the tally "suspicious," since early returns
had suggested LDPR would win eight percent.

--------------------------
SPS: Not Quite a Contender
--------------------------

7. (SBU) The Union of Right Forces (SPS) narrowly failed to
cross the seven percent threshold in three of the nine
regions in which it was registered and won representation in
four. Its mixed results on March 11 leave SPS's prospects
for representation in the Duma after the December elections
uncertain. SPS insiders attribute the party's improved
performance to its newfound emphasis on social issues.
Others argue that the party success is traceable to an
understanding with the Kremlin. If so, the mysterious
disappearance of votes in the Leningrad region re-count and
the party's electoral problems in Moscow and Orel suggest
that the nature of that understanding is not well understood
by all.

-------
Comment
-------

8. (SBU) The March 11 results suggest the successful
realization of the Kremlin's plan for a managed democracy,
although it appears at this juncture to be five parties, not
two, that are being managed. Shaping the March 11 races were
2006 changes to the electoral law that constrained political
debate, eliminated minimal voter turnout requirements, and
toughened party registration requirements. Also critical to
the outcome were the decisions of regional election
commissions not to register parties for the elections,
sometimes on somewhat flimsy grounds. YR was forced to pay a
price -- although the cost was modest -- of being the
governing party. SR's respectable finish should end some of
the local squabbling that has accompanied its appearance, and
turn it into a draw for local politicians and officials not
admitted to YR's inner circle.

---------------------------------------------
Results by Region in Moscow Consular District
---------------------------------------------

9. (U) Percentages in the party list votes for regions in the
Moscow Consular District are below:

Dagestan Republic (fluid results):

United Russia 63.67
Just Russia 10.68
Agrarian Party 9.12
KPRF 7.22
Patriots of Russia 7.07
-----------
LDPR 0.81


Komi Republic

United Russia 36.18
Just Russia 15.49
KPRF 14.26
LDPR 13.60
SPS 8.80


Moscow Region

United Russia 49.57
KPRF 18.61
Just Russia 8.86
-----------
SPS (contesting result) 6.90
LDPR 6.81
Yabloko 4.09
Patriots of Russia 2.05


Orel Region

United Russia 39.02
KPRF 23.78
Just Russia 12.60

MOSCOW 00001431 003.2 OF 003


LDPR 7.34
-----------
SPS (contesting result) 6.98
Patriots of Russia 3.06
People's Will 2.09
Democratic Party 1.31
of Russia

Samara Region

United Russia 33.54
KPRF 18.98
Just Russia 15.14
LDPR 11.59
SPS 8.11
Green Party 7.62
-----------
Patriots of Russia 1.38


Stavropol Region

Just Russia 37.64
United Russia 23.87
KPRF 14.13
LDPR 11.80
SPS 7.73


Tomsk Region

United Russia 46.79
KPRF 13.37
LDPR 12.87
Just Russia 7.90
SPS 7.78
-----------
Patriots of Russia 3.75
Yabloko 3.65
Unity 1.06
RUSSELL

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