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Cablegate: Volgograd Mayoral Election: Just Russia Bounced,

VZCZCXRO6811
RR RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHPOD RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #2463/01 1451328
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 251328Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0618
INFO RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHLN/AMCONSUL ST PETERSBURG 4136
RUEHYG/AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG 2452
RUEHVK/AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK 2137

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 002463

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM PINR SOCI RS
SUBJECT: VOLGOGRAD MAYORAL ELECTION: JUST RUSSIA BOUNCED,
KPRF BEATS UNITED RUSSIA

MOSCOW 00002463 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) Summary: In what was portrayed as an electoral
upset by the national media, Communist Party (KPRF) candidate
Roman Grebennikov won the May 20 Volgograd mayoral election,
with United Russia State Duma Deputy Vasiliy Galushkin coming
in a distant third. "For A Just Russia's" (SR) candidate was
struck from the ballot days before the election in a campaign
marred by dirty tricks and counterattacks. While local
results generally have little predictive value for the
December Duma elections, some commentators have claimed that
they point to voter disillusionment with United Russia and
note that SR's Kremlin support may be withering. A closer
reading of the results shows that this was a victory of a
well-known local candidate, whom United Russia is moving
quickly to co-opt. End summary.

-------------------------------------
United Russia Fumbles, KPRF Takes All
-------------------------------------

2. (U) On May 20, 31-year-old KPRF candidate Roman
Grebennikov won 32.74 percent of the vote in the Volgograd
mayoral election. Voter turnout was 38 percent.
Unaffiliated acting mayor Roland Kheryanov took 23.85 percent
and the candidate of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party,
Duma Deputy Vasiliy Galushkin, ran an erratic campaign and
garnered only 20.35 percent. SR nominated construction
company general director Oleg Mikheyev less than a month
before election day and he was struck from the ballot three
days before the election.

---------------------
Litigious Campaigning
---------------------

3. (U) The election campaign was rife with attempts to
de-register candidates. Mikheyev was de-registered on April
28 for bribing voters, supposedly as a result of a deal
between United Russia and KPRF Volgograd Governor Nikolay
Maksyuta. Mikheyev continued campaigning until the appeal
was upheld on May 17, at which point, according to Indem
analyst Yuriy Korgunyuk, he called on his supporters to vote
for Grebennikov. Grebennikov survived two de-registration
attempts. Both Kheryanov and Galushkin withstood charges of
illegal use of administrative resources. In the week before
the election, a tape surfaced of Galushkin's campaign workers
using threats to extract contributions from factory workers.
Days before the election, Galushkin attempted to drop out of
the race because of unnamed "pressure," which was rumored to
have been from United Russia's national leadership. His
subsequent decision to stay in the race may not have been
sanctioned by United Russia's leadership.

-------------------------
Defeat for United Russia?
-------------------------

4. (SBU) Some commentators have billed United Russia's
defeat in Volgograd as the product of growing disillusionment
with the Kremlin party in the Volga region. (NOTE: SR's
Viktor Tarkhov won Samara's mayoral election in October 2006
and A Just Russia won the party vote in Stavropol's March
2007 regional election.) Grebennikov is a well-known and
popular local politician, a lawyer who has been a regional
duma deputy since 1998, and was speaker from 2001-2005.
Indem's Korgunyuk told us that the result was unsurprising
given Grebennikov's prominence in Volgograd. He thought
Grebennikov's success had nothing to do with his party
affiliation. Further, Korgunyuk noted that in the
traditionally Communist "red belt," KPRF membership did not
hurt.

5. (SBU) United Russia may not have been wholeheartedly
behind its candidate either. In an apparent effort to
distance the party from Galushkin's faltering campaign,
Volgograd United Russia representative Yuriy Oleynikov
highlighted before the election that the platforms of all the
favorite candidates matched United Russia's. United Russia
Duma Deputy and First Deputy Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin
stated that the party had supported multiple candidates, one
of whom was Grebennikov. According to United Russia's
website, Duma speaker Boris Gryzlov had meetings in which
Grebennikov had called himself an independent candidate who
would work with all parties. And indeed, Grebennikov's
ballot entry also listed him as an independent. The KPRF's
Ivan Melnikov dismissed such talk as United Russia's attempt
to deflect attention from the "obvious" defeat of its brand.


MOSCOW 00002463 002.2 OF 002


6. (SBU) Nonetheless, Grebennikov has promised to work with
United Russia, which has majorities in the city, regional,
and State dumas. Governor Maksyuta, who refused to ally
himself with any of the mayoral candidates, attended a United
Russia party meeting endorsing Galushkin ten days before the
election.

----------------------------
Just Russia Too Threatening?
----------------------------

7. (SBU) A Just Russia Duma Deputy Oksana Dmitrieva told us
on May 21 that she considered the Volgograd result to be
further evidence of A Just Russia's waning popularity with
the Kremlin. She argued that the KPRF is now being
positioned as the "opposition" party. VTsIOM analyst Leontiy
Byzov concurred. Byzov noted to us that while provincial
results do not predict what will happen nationally, the KPRF
appears to be increasingly popular. He argued that KPRF's
popularity is now in the Kremlin's interest because SR is not
siphoning off KPRF votes, as was intended, instead it has
become apparent that SR is taking United Russia votes.

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

8. (SBU) As closer examination usually reveals, all politics
are local and the image of a United Russia dominated Russia
is often challenged by local election outcomes. In this
case, United Russia could not keep a good man down -- even if
he is a Communist -- and has moved quickly to co-opt him.
BURNS

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