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Cablegate: Elections: Krasnoyarsk As Bellwether?

VZCZCXRO6868
PP RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHPOD RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #1734/01 1061559
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 161559Z APR 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9357
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHLN/AMCONSUL ST PETERSBURG 3988
RUEHVK/AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK 2054
RUEHYG/AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG 2372

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 001734

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM PINR RS
SUBJECT: ELECTIONS: KRASNOYARSK AS BELLWETHER?


MOSCOW 00001734 001.2 OF 002


Summary
-------

1. (SBU) If Krasnoyarsk is an electoral bellwether, as
observers here claim, the five political parties which made
it into the regional assembly in voting April 15 may be the
ones to make it into the State Duma in December. The ruling
pro-Putin United Russia party, led in Krasnoyarsk by popular
incumbent governor Aleksandr Khloponin, scored a clear win,
gaining over 42% of the vote. The Communist Party came in a
strong second with 20%. For a Just Russia, the newly-created
leftist pro-Putin party -- intended to draw away support from
the Communists -- fell short of expectations, gaining 12%.
Zhirinovskiy's LDPR also received 12%. The Liberal Union of
Right Forces -- the party with the shakiest chances of making
it into the Duma in December -- received over 7%, while
enduring "black P.R." Embassy visited Krasnoyarsk April
10-12 to gauge the pre-election environment. End Summary.

Khloponin: Local Hero
---------------------

2. (SBU) Governor Aleksandr Khloponin delivered, as expected,
a strong victory for United Russia (YR) in the April 15
regional elections in Krasnoyarsk. (Krasnoyarsk, Russia's
second largest region in land area, has a population of three
million.) United Russia received over 42 percent of the
vote. YR did even better in voting for the 26 directly
elected seats in the 52-seat regional assembly, winning
almost two-thirds.

3. (SBU) During conversations with a range of politicians,
civil society representatives, and officials in Krasnoyarsk
April 10-12, we heard near-universal praise for Khloponin's
leadership. Even leaders from opposition parties such as the
Union of Right Forces and Yabloko credited Khloponin with
being an energetic and capable manager. We frequently heard
support for the idea that Khloponin -- who is only 42 and has
a fortune from his earlier association with Norilsk Nickel --
has Presidential ambitions. While praising Khloponin,
competing parties were, however, adamant that his incumbency
and use of the administrative apparatus gave YR an almost
insurmountable advantage.

A Just Russia Falls Short
-------------------------

4. (SBU) A Just Russia, the left of center pro-Putin party
created in late 2006, fell short of its expectations on April
15. A Just Russia leaders whom we met in Krasnoyarsk April
12 told us they expected to get 18 percent. Focusing on
social issues such as pensions and other subsidies, they
hoped to eat into the base of the Communists and finish
second. They predicted that the Communists and LDPR would
get only 10 percent each. (As noted, the result was:
Communists - 20%; Zhirinovskiy/LDPR - 12%.)

Low Turnout Favors Communists
-----------------------------

5. (SBU) Turnout in the election was 34.4%. Observers in
Krasnoyarsk expected the low turnout and anticipated it would
favor the Communist party (KPRF). KPRF, all agreed, remains
the party of choice for the many pensioners nostalgic about
the USSR. The Krasnoyarsk Elections Commissioner told us
April 10 that pensioners had a 70% turnout rate - double that
of the general population. He noted this skewed the election
to the issues most on the minds of retirees: social benefits
and pensions.

Union of Right Forces
---------------------

6. (SBU) The Union of Right Forces (SPS) leadership both
alleges irregularities in the election and is accused of
committing them. A week before the election, police raided
all the offices of SPS in Krasnoyarsk region following an
accusation that SPS activists had been offering to pay a
bounty to some who would deliver voters. SPS denied the
charges, saying all its activities were legal. An
investigation continues.

7. (SBU) Meanwhile, SPS leader Sergey Shachmatov told us
April 11 he expected falsification of election results. He
said SPS had been victim of a "black P.R." campaign. Unknown
forces distributed materials discrediting SPS. In another
instance, on April 11 Krasnoyarsk TV carried reports that
someone had spray-painted "for Belykh" (SPS national leader)

MOSCOW 00001734 002.4 OF 002


throughout much of downtown Krasnoyarsk city.

8. (SBU) Shachmatov said that SPS stood a good chance in
Krasnoyarsk since it was the only true opposition party. SPS
got over 7% - well above the 5% threshold for entry into the
regional assembly. On election day, Shachmatov alleged that
other parties had padded their voting lists with "dead
souls."

Pre-election atmospherics
-------------------------

9. (SBU) United Russia and A Just Russia activists were
visible throughout Krasnoyarsk city during our April 10-12
stay. Both parties had teams of brightly uniformed young
people handing out materials and waving large party flags.
We noticed only one other such team, for SPS, outside the
university. LDPR had only billboards around town, featuring
Zhirinovskiy. The Communists had almost no visible presence.
We saw one KPRF billboard. United Russia and SPS dominated
paid TV coverage. SPS ads featured party leader Belykh or
made an appeal to pensioners. An LDPR ad simply had a
grim-faced Zhirinovskiy barking at voters to vote for him if
they had any sense. United Russia's Young Guard sponsored a
concert outside city hall the night of April 11. (The event
seemed, however, to serve as more of a backdrop for teens
drinking beer in public than to stir up passion for YR.)

Public outreach
---------------

10. (U) In addition to meetings with political party leaders
and regional and city officials, we gave a talk at the State
University and met with about 20 civil society
representatives. We also met with Open World and other
exchange alumni and called on the Chamber of Commerce.

Comment
-------

11. (SBU) United Russia no doubt hopes that Krasnoyarsk is a
bellwether for the December election to the State Duma. It
would be premature, however, to assume that A Just Russia has
peaked. Indeed, the party did better in a number of regional
elections on March 11. The Communists continue to have a
loyal base, helped by low turnout. SPS's ability to get over
7% should give it encouragement for December. With "against
all" not an option this year, the harassment SPS endured may
have helped it earn some of the protest vote. Finally, it is
clear that Governor Khloponin is a politician to watch, with
a possible future on the national scene.

BURNS

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