Newsletters / St Petersburg is Beacon of Hope in Russian Elections

Dear friends,

We would like to bring you an important update on the results of election day in Russia that took place on Sunday. Below we have some initial election analysis from Mikhail Khodorkovsky, as well as news from St Petersburg that will leave you smiling.

Last Sunday, voters across Russia went to the ballot supposedly to elect new governors, regional parliamentarians and municipal councillors. But for the most part the Kremlin was successful in maintaining the political status quo through a variety of dirty tactics, ranging from imprisoning opposition candidates, to ballot-stuffing and falsifying the final results. This meant that the main conclusion to be drawn from the elections was, as articulated by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, that, “[T]hose who should have won didn’t”.

In Moscow, democratic candidates were categorically barred from standing. Mikhail Khodorkovsky has spoken out about the election results in Moscow. He has called on freshly elected deputies to agree on new dates for elections, because “the conditions, under which the elections took place in Moscow and St Petersburg, prevent us from accepting the elected governmental bodies of these cities legitimate”. You can read his full statement here.

However, in Russia’s second largest city a sense of optimism prevailed: over 140 independent candidates were elected to municipal councils around St Petersburg. The newly elected deputies had received backing from the United Democrats project during the election campaign. The United Democrats provide legal and logistic support to people wanting to stand in municipal elections not only in St Petersburg, but in regions all across Russia.

The results in the St Petersburg municipal elections represent the largest mandate given to democratic candidates in the city since President Putin came to power.

One of the victorious candidates, Natalia Gryaznevich, explained the ramifications of Sunday’s results: “For the city this is a victory of huge significance. It’s the beginning of political reform. Our task now is to help deputies in their work so that people realise that having democrats in power is useful and logical”.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky also commented on the election success, “I am particularly pleased for St Petersburg, where authorities ran one of the dirtiest campaigns, using unlawful strong-arm tactics”.

Several hopeful candidates fielded with the support of the United Democrats were prevented from standing in the elections. Andrei Pivovarov, one of the project’s coordinators, was struck off the ballot at the last minute, despite having already fought (and won) a legal battle to keep his name on the ballot.

Pavel Chuprunov had to spend six days queuing to submit his registration documents in a electoral district that has dubious ties to a Petersburg parliamentarian. Once registered, the district electoral commission blocked his candidacy, ignoring in the process a court order acquired by Pavel.

In some districts recounts have been ordered after democratic candidates caught election officials  scrupulously changing the final voting results to the benefit of pro-Kremlin candidates. This could further increase the share of independent municipal councillors operating in St Petersburg.