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Cablegate: Independent Campaign Prevails Over United Russia Machine In

R 241014Z OCT 08
FM AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 1211
INFO AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
AMCONSUL ST PETERSBURG
AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK
AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG

UNCLAS YEKATERINBURG 000064


DEPTARTMENT FOR EUR/RUS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV RS
SUBJECT: INDEPENDENT CAMPAIGN PREVAILS OVER UNITED RUSSIA MACHINE IN
NIZHNY TAGIL

REF: YEKATERINBURG 62


1. (SBU) The October 12 Municipal elections in Nizhny Tagil
resulted in a rare defeat in United Russia's (UR) scorebook, but
one which party publicists have sought to characterize as a
victory. The campaign demonstrated that UR's overwhelming
"administrative" resources do not always guarantee victory over
a popular candidate running a strong campaign. Valentina
Isayeva, a UR member who campaigned as an independent when she
didn't receive the support of the party leadership, polled 37%
of the vote to defeat the official UR-backed candidate Aleksey
Chekanov, who finished a distant third.

2. (SBU) On October 23, local internet news sites reported
rumors that the fiasco in Nizhny Tagil may cost Aleksandr Levin
his job as head of UR's Sverdlovsk Oblast organization, but our
party contacts will not confirm this. Levin is Sverdlovsk
Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel's closest political confidant.
Levin's fate may not become clear until after UR council
meetings on the federal level next week. The result of those
deliberations may indicate the extent to which maneuvering in
anticipation of the expiration of Rossel's term in office next
fall has already begun.

3. (SBU) In dissecting this contentious intraparty squabble,
local independent political analysts faulted United Russia for
choosing a weak candidate and running a poorly organized,
low-budget campaign. According to our contacts, Chekanov, a
local businessman, appeared unmotivated and allowed regional
party authorities to dominate his campaign. Isayeva, on the
other hand, started from a strong position as deputy chairman of
the city duma. She ran a vigorous grassroots campaign, a tactic
that was necessitated by her virtual exclusion from local TV
coverage, according to press reports quoting her campaign
manager. Though Isayeva was initially threatened with expulsion
from the party when she declared her candidacy, she ultimately
retained her UR membership. This has enabled UR to assert that
the elections represent an overall victory for UR because the
top three vote-getters were all UR members.

4. (SBU) One local insider acknowledged that Chekanov may not
have been the best candidate, but party leaders believed they
could dissuade Isayeva and others from running. In addition,
according to this operative, UR strategists underestimated the
appeal of a female candidate. Other analysts believe that the
example of Nizhny Tagil could stimulate competition both within
and outside the party. The turmoil within the local UR
organization may lead to recognition of the value of more open
intraparty competition in selecting candidates. Meanwhile,
non-UR candidates may see the result in Nizhny Tagil as an
example of how a determined challenger can defeat a vulnerable
UR candidate.

SANDUSKY

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