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Cablegate: Ivanovo: United Russia Fracture Leads to Early

VZCZCXRO2548
PP RUEHLN RUEHPOD RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #0467/01 0511339
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 201339Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6724
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 000467

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM ECON RS
SUBJECT: IVANOVO: UNITED RUSSIA FRACTURE LEADS TO EARLY
ELECTIONS

SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) A simmering dispute in Ivanovo between a
Kremlin-appointed Governor and a State Duma Deputy, over
control of the local United Russia party and the economic
benefits that go with it, reached a boiling point in December
2007 when more than half of the members of the regional Duma
resigned in protest. The mass resignation led the Governor
to dissolve the Duma and call for early elections on March 2,
the same day as Russia's presidential elections, with the
likely outcome more ruling party in-fighting. Opposition
parties Yabloko and the Union of Right Forces (SPS) are not
taking part in the elections but the Communist Party, also in
a weak position, was energized by the upcoming visit of
Communist Party leader and presidential candidate Gennadiy
Zyuganov. Ivanovo's new status as a ruling party stronghold
was evidenced, during Emboff's February 12-13 visit, by the
absolute lack of excitement surrounding the presidential
race, with a large majority of local residents prepared to
vote for Putin's pick, Medvedev. As the textile industry
fades, Ivanovo seeks to be a major part of Golden Ring
tourism. End Summary.

GOVERNOR AND STATE DUMA DEPUTY FIGHT FOR CONTROL
--------------------------------------------- ---

2. (SBU) A situation that Yabloko Party Deputy Chairman
Alexsandr Rumyantsev described as "ripening for a year,"
reached a boiling point in December 2007 when 28 members of
the Ivanovo Regional Duma resigned. Most of the deputies who
resigned were members of United Russia and loyal to Governor
Mikhail Men. Governor Men, a former deputy to Moscow Mayor
Luzhkov, was appointed by the Kremlin to became Ivanovo's
governor in December 2005, and replaced Tikhonov, a member of
the Communist Party. Governor Men had previously been a
member of the liberal opposition party Yabloko. His entrance
onto the scene in Ivanovo caused tension with Ivanovo's State
Duma Deputy Mikhail Babich as the two fought for control over
the local United Russia party and over their economic
interests in the region. The dispute played out in the
Regional Duma where the members of United Russia split into
two camps -- one loyal to the Governor and the other loyal to
its Speaker, Andrey Nazarov, who is closely associated with
Babich.

3. (SBU) The 28 deputies who resigned were mostly members of
United Russia, however the group also included members of
SPS, the Liberal Democratic Party and Just Russia. All were
known to be dissatisfied with Nazarov, who local journalist
Irina Mamayeva told us was a retired colonel who ran the Duma
in a "very authoritarian way." Of the 48-member Duma, 33
were United Russia party members. The mass resignation gave
Governor Men the opportunity to dissolve the Duma and call
for early elections on March 2. The dissolution was
challenged in court by a supporter of the Duma's speaker. On
February 13, the Supreme Court upheld the dissolution of the
Ivanovo Duma.

4. (SBU) While ascribing different motives to the Duma
protagonists, local interlocutors from a range of political
parties told Emboff, during a February 12-13 visit to
Ivanovo, the Duma had ceased to function prior to its
dissolution. Yabloko's Rumyantsev explained that the Duma
crisis was all about in-fighting among members of United
Russia. He predicted that the new election will not solve
anything because United Russia's party list contains members
from both sides of the dispute -- including Nazarov. The
Ivanovo Political Council, the decision-making body of the
local United Russia party split into two factions with each
faction sending their list of candidates for the upcoming
election to the party's Federal Council. The Federal
Council, rather than siding with either faction, merely
merged the two lists. Communist Party leader and regional
Duma Deputy Anatoliy Gordiyenko noted ironically that "the
idea to dissolve the Duma was born in the United Russia Party
and now the same people are running and it is expensive."
Rumyantsev also accused United Russia of putting candidates
on their party list who have agreed to step aside and sell
their Duma seats to others.

YABLOKO AND SPS CANNOT AFFORD TO RUN
-----------------------------------

5. (SBU) Despite regional Duma and presidential elections
that were due to take place in just over two weeks, there was
little evidence of any campaigning taking place in Ivanovo.
No billboard advertisements were evident, with the exception
of those placed by the election commission informing voters
of the date of the elections. There were no signs for local

MOSCOW 00000467 002 OF 003


or presidential candidates. Everyone we spoke to agreed that
presidential candidate Medvedev would do well in the region.


6. (SBU) Opposition parties Yabloko and the Union of Right
Forces (SPS) will not take part in the regional Duma
elections. Despite the likelihood of achieving the
percentage of votes necessary to enter the Duma (four percent
under local law), neither party had the one million rubles
required as a deposit to participate. According to
Rumyantsev, the national party is unable to help even in a
region where they could potentially succeed. Rumyantsev
said opposition parties in Ivanovo are up against wide-spread
use of administrative resources and pressure on the media to
report favorably about United Russia and its candidates.
"There is no independent source of information for voters,"
he said. "This lack of information is how you end up with
results such as those in the December 2 State Duma
elections."

COMMUNIST PARTY AWAITS ZYUGANOV VISIT
------------------------------------

7. (SBU) The Communist Party has seen its influence wane from
the days when the governor of Ivanovo was a "real" communist,
Gordiyenko told us. The party's traditional voters, mostly
older citizens living in rural areas, are increasingly
supporting United Russia because of their dependence on state
benefits. Today, Communist Party support comes largely from
city dwellers. Gordiyenko told us there were "serious
violations" in the Ivanovo region during the December 2
elections. He said most of these violations related to
inappropriate use of administrative resources. He said the
same is happening in the upcoming presidential elections,
especially at the national level. Commenting on the amount
of media coverage Medvedev is receiving, Gordiyenko said, "he
(Medvedev) is everywhere. You plug in your iron, he is
there. You look in the mirror to shave, he is there." He
said that the more than 60 percent vote for United Russia in
December would have been only 50 percent were it not for the
use of administrative resources.

8. (SBU) On February 16, Communist Party leader and
presidential candidate Zyuganov was due to visit Ivanovo for
the first time in seven years. Gordiyenko told us Ivanovo
was one of only five regions Zyuganov would visit during the
campaign. Noting that the party does better in neighboring
regions, Gordiyenko said he was coming to visit a "weak part
of the power chain." Subsequent news coverage of Zyuganov's
visit reported that he received a tepid reception from local
factory workers, only a few dozen of whom stayed past their
shift to listen to him.

IVANOVO SEEKS TO JOIN 'GOLDEN RING' TOURISM BOOM
--------------------------------------------- ---

9. (SBU) Ivanovo is one of the poorest regions in Russia,
with an average salary of 8 thousand rubles per month
(320 USD). While local authorities, including Deputy
Governor Zhukovskaya, said salaries are growing, others,
including Yabloko's Rumyantsev said this is only due to
increased salaries for local officials. The region, the
historical center of Russia's domestic textile industry since
Tsarist times and known as the "City of Brides," due to the

SIPDIS
large number of women who worked in the textile industry, is
losing its struggle to compete with China and countries in
South Asia. Deputy Governor Zhukovskaya told us Governor Men
wants Ivanovo to become known as the "City of Investors." She
told us the Governor had signed an agreement with five
governors of other Golden Ring regions -- Yaroslavl, Moscow,
Kostroma and Vladimir -- to advance tourism efforts and
touted the city's new tourism facilities including a 10-room
four-star hotel in the middle of the city.

10. (SBU) Journalist Mamayeva said Governor Men is viewed
positively although "it is too early to talk about results."
She noted that in the two years he has been in the job, there
has been more investment in the region with new building
construction and shopping centers. Nearly all interlocutors
mentioned the upcoming opening of a national hyper-market as
proof of Ivanovo's improved investment climate.

11. (SBU) There has been some evidence of work taking place
under the National Projects although the Communist Party's
Gordiyenko called the projects a "trick for the population."
Most cited new medical equipment and ambulances and some
increase in the availability of health care. There was also
Internet access in schools. Work done in the agriculture
sector under the National Projects was widely criticized.
Others told us loans that are available under the program are

MOSCOW 00000467 003 OF 003


either for too short a term to be beneficial for those who
need them, or in other cases have been misdirected for such
purposes as the purchase of dachas.

COMMENT
-------

12. (SBU) There is little doubt that United Russia will do
well in the region at both the national level -- supporting
Medvedev for president -- and at the regional level where
United Russia's party list and single mandate candidates will
win an even greater number of seats. The larger question is
whether or not the elections for the regional Duma will
produce a result that resolves the power-struggle between the
Governor and the State Duma Deputy. With candidates from
both sides of the dispute poised to win seats in the next
regional Duma, the end result may be more of the same.


BURNS

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