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Cablegate: United Russia Aims to Win by a Wide Margin in Tuva

VZCZCXRO2474
PP RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #1276/01 2791441
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 061441Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3576
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHLN/AMCONSUL ST PETERSBURG 3433
RUEHVK/AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK 1692
RUEHYG/AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG 1937

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 011276

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/RUS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM PHUM PREL SOCI RS
SUBJECT: UNITED RUSSIA AIMS TO WIN BY A WIDE MARGIN IN TUVA

MOSCOW 00011276 001.2 OF 003


-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) Embassy visited the Republic of Tuva October 1-5, in
advance of the October 8 regional election. Tuva is tightly
controlled by Regional Head Sherig-Ool Oorzhak, who became a
member of United Russia (YR) eight months ago, and it is
widely believed that YR will win a decisive majority, with
the help of administrative resources and official
encouragement. While the Communist Party (KPRF) continues to
have loyal followers and says it is confident it will exceed
the seven percent threshold, it appears to be relatively
weak. Rodina, the Patriots' Party of Russia (PPR), and the
Russian Party of Life (RPL) may end up cannibalizing each
others' vote and barely cross the threshold, with the
regional YR leadership showing little tolerance for the
purported second party-of-power. LDPR, a niche party in
Tuva, is not expected to make the cut. End summary.

----------------------------
October 8 Regional Elections
----------------------------

2. (SBU) Tuva is one of the poorest regions of the Russian
Federation. About 50% of its population lives below the
poverty line and in some areas the unemployment rate is
almost 30 percent. Sherig-Ool Oorzhak has been Head of the
Republic for 16 years. His current term expires in April
2007, but it is likely he will stand again for Head of the
Republic because he is still in good health and is popular.
However, United Russia (YR) Head Sholban Kara-Ool has his
sights on the post and told us that the time has come for
"new blood."

3. (SBU) While there are 15 parties registered in Tuva and
eight parties submitted documents, only six parties are
participating in the October 8 elections -- United Russia
(YR), the Communist Party (KPRF), Rodina, the Russian Party
of Life (RPL), the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR),
and the Patriots' Party of Russia (PPR). According to Tuva
Election Commission (TEC) Chair Sholban Mongush, the Agrarian
Party did not make the September 25 deadline to provide final
documentation and the Pensioners Party's documents violated
some election regulations. Neither party contested the TEC's
rulings. Both PPR and RPL were rejected for violations but
were reinstated after appealing to the courts. Mongush
complained that he still felt RPL's violations were real and
they should not have been allowed to compete. He said that
the TEC had to reprint all the bulletins at great cost, in
order to include RPL.

4. (SBU) 162 deputies are up for election to the Velikiy
Khural (parliament) -- 130 part-time deputies in the Chamber
of Representatives and 32 full-time deputies in the
Legislative Chamber. The Chamber of Representatives will be
elected by party list. In the Legislative Chamber, 16
deputies will be elected in single-mandate districts and 16
by party list. The necessary turnout for the election to be
valid is 25 percent. Kyzyl Mayor Dmitriy Dongak predicted
the turnout would be 50 - 60 percent. There are
approximately 165,000 eligible voters in Tuva and 60,000 of
them live in Kyzyl. There are 184 polling stations in Tuva,
31 of which are in Kyzyl. Each party is allowed one observer
at a time in a polling station. There will be three roving
Central Elections Commission representatives from Moscow
observing the elections process on Sunday. TEC Chair Mongush
said that preliminary results would be available by October 9
for Kyzyl and by October 11 for the regions. Final results
are required within 10 days of the elections, but he said
they likely would be ready in 8 or 9 days.

5. (SBU) Beginning October 7, all "agitation" will stop (even
on TV and radio) and no campaign materials will be allowed
within 50 meters of a polling station. During the campaign,
parties were allowed free airtime on state-owned media -- 40
seconds per day (except weekends) on radio and 50 seconds per
day (except weekends) on TV. According to Regional Head of
Rodina Damdinchap Khovalig, while the authorities have
followed the rules, most of the TV airtime was slotted for
late morning when no one except pensioners were watching.
Radio spots were broadcast before 8 A.M. As a result, the
parties relied on fliers and pamphlets to reach voters.

6. (SBU) According to First Deputy Chairman of Tuva Aleksandr
Brokert, YR and PPR (which consists mostly of businesspeople)

MOSCOW 00011276 002.2 OF 003


have well-organized campaigns with a definite focus. KPRF,
RPL, and Rodina are campaigning on criticism of the party in
power, and LDPR has largely been silent. He said there is
not much party identification in Tuva because the population
is small and people will vote for those they know (frequently
a relative, friend, coworker, or boss). According to Mayor
Dongak, the main issues for the electorate are housing,
salaries, utilities (especially heat since winter
temperatures in Tuva can reach minus 50 C), and crime.

--------------------------------------------- -
United Russia Sparing No Expense to Woo Voters
--------------------------------------------- -

7. (SBU) United Russia has pulled out all the stops in Tuva
to ensure a solid win on October 8. Local hero and Minister
of Emergency Situations Sergey Shoigu visited Kyzyl and was
featured heavily on TV and in YR's campaign posters. He was
also featured at length in a campaign film shown by YR on
October 4 during a two-and-a-half hour long Soviet-style
concert held in Kyzyl's main theater. Head of Republic
Oorzhak, three Russian State Duma deputies (including the
extremely popular three-time Olympic-gold-medal-winner
wrestler Aleksandr Karelin), and other high-ranking officials
gave speeches, followed by performances by well-known local
celebrities and dance troupes. The audience consisted mainly
of pensioners, veterans, government workers, and Molodaya
Gvardiya members (YR's youth wing), and their friends. There
was something for everyone -- pop songs and the YR bear
mascot for the young generation, Soviet nostalgia songs for
pensioners and veterans, traditional Russian and traditional
Tuvan performances to appeal to both nationalities in the
audience. Molodaya Gvardiya helped organize the event and
participated in several dance numbers. According to
independent journalist Sayana Mongush, seats were also padded
with people from the regions who were persuaded to attend
even though they were not YR members because it was a free
trip to a concert in Kyzyl. She also said that pressure was
put on the performers, who were not paid for their efforts,
to participate in the concert. Other famous Tuvans such as
the renowned throat-singer Kongar-Ool Ondar have been
recruited to campaign for YR throughout Tuva's regions.

8. (SBU) Later, at a dinner that included Karelin, Brokert,
and other Tuvan business and political leaders, Kara-Ool said
he expected YR to get at least 65 percent of the vote on
October 8 (Oorzhak has claimed YR will get 80 percent). He
was pragmatic about his reasons for being a part of YR: he
wants to eventually become head of Tuva and YR, as the party
of power, seems to be the best option. He said the region
needed a new, younger leader (i.e., himself); Oorzhak was a
Soviet relic. Kara-Ool mentioned his participation in the
USG's Open World program as a huge learning experience for
him. He actively used the knowledge gained in the U.S. to
further his political career. YR's connection to the
National Projects makes it, Kara-Ool thought, the most
practical way to attract funding to the region.

-------------------------------------------
Black PR Tactics Used Against Party of Life
-------------------------------------------

9. (SBU) There is considerable enmity between RPL and YR in
Tuva. Head of Parliament Vasiliy Oyun heads RPL's list and
is Oorzhak's chief critic. In March, 13 YR deputies of the
Legislative Chamber urged President Putin to dismiss Oorzhak
for incompetence. They were all expelled from YR, and
although later reinstated, many subsequently joined RPL.

10. (SBU) In the past week, fliers appeared in Kyzyl accusing
RPL candidates -- and particularly the head of the party and
former mayor of Kyzyl Zoya Sat -- of betraying the ideals of
Shoigu. While the TEC is investigating the fliers, TEC Chair
Mongush said it was unlikely anyone will be apprehended.
Sayana Mongush theorized that fliers had been posted by
either Rodina or YR Moscow political strategists. Their
strategy would backfire, because too many Kyzylites know the
candidates personally and know the allegations are false.
She said that it was a mistake for campaigns to be directed
by outsiders since they know very little about Tuvan culture
and attitudes.

--------------------------
Rodina's Vote May Be Split
--------------------------


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11. (SBU) Rodina has approximately 640 members in Tuva. The
party is running 15 candidates on the party list and no
single-mandate candidates. Regional Head Khovalig said that
some members left Rodina for the Party of Life. He expressed
hope Rodina will cross the 7 percent threshold, but admitted
that Rodina is competing for the same electorate as RPL,
making it possible that neither party will succeed. Khovalig
welcomed the creation of the upcoming new Rodina--Party of
Life--Pensioners Party union because it would provide greater
opposition to YR.

12. (SBU) Khovalig blamed YR and Oorzhak for the region's
problems, saying that the situation in Tuva had steadily
deteriorated in the past 16 years. He also said YR was
behind an event last Saturday, in which a truck with Rodina
fliers and pamphlets was stopped several times on the way to
Kyzyl from the printing plant for document checks. When the
truck reached Kyzyl, police accused the party of exceeding
the number of fliers and pamphlets allowed by election law
without explaining the basis for their suspicions. They made
Rodina volunteers count all the pamphlets until 4 A.M., when
it was finally agreed that their number did not exceed
allowable limits.

------------------------------------
Communist Party Seems Over-Confident
------------------------------------

13. (SBU) The KPRF operates out of a one-room office in a
shabby building in downtown Kyzyl surrounded by busts of
Lenin and old USSR Communist Party banners. Regional KPRF
Head Vladimir Sodunam said that there are about 1000
registered members in Tuva and about 110 in Kyzyl. They were
mainly older people, but 12 people in their 20s had joined in
the last two months. The party is running 18 candidates on
the party list and six single-mandate candidates. He
expressed confidence that the party would win more than 7
percent of the votes, even with its limited resources because
the number of Communist supporters in the electorate was much
greater than the officially registered members. He
complained that other parties had purloined the KPRF's
campaign slogans.

--------------------------------------------- ------------
Rally By Non-United Russia Parties "For Honest Elections"
--------------------------------------------- ------------

14. (SBU) On September 18, over 2000 people from Kyzyl and
several other regions took part in a rally against United
Russia's use of administrative resources in the October 8
election campaign. The speakers from all opposition parties
-- KPRF, Party of Life, Rodina, LDPR, Pensioners Party, and
Patriots' Party -- called for honest elections and for
regional and local officials to stop intimidating
subordinates with dismissal and other consequences if they
did not back YR. Rodina Head Khovalig told us that
intimidation was especially rife in Tuva's regions, where
heads of schools, hospitals, and other public institutions
are told to "encourage" their subordinates to vote for United
Russia. Sayana Mongush said that many people in the
intelligentsia and cultural spheres will not vote at all in
the elections because they are "fed up" with being
manipulated by the parties and authorities.

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

15. (SBU) The regional administration has firm control over
the economics and politics of Tuva. For the moment, most of
its citizens above all want an improvement in their standard
of living, and they will back whatever party makes the most
convincing promise of a better life. With the combined
resources of Oorzhak, Kara-Ool, Shoigu, and Karelin, YR it is
virtually guaranteed a decisive majority on October 8.
BURNS

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