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United Russia Primed for Primaries

Published: May 22, 2013 (Issue # 1760)

ByáNikolai Petrov

United Russia started primaries last week inámost ofáthe regions that will hold elections onáSept. 8.

Primaries have been initiated andáare now overseen byápresidential deputy chief ofástaffáVyacheslav Volodin. Their purpose is toáimprove theáquality ofáparty candidates andáto prevent conflicts among theáelite when forming party lists. TheáKremlinĺs goal is not toácontrol theáprocess since primaries are largely theádomain ofálocal party authorities. If governors can produce theádesired results, Moscow does not interfere. Whatĺs more, United Russia primaries are consultative inánature andádo not have aádirect effect. Widespread manipulation ofáthe primaries sparked aánumber ofáscandals. Iná2011, then-Prime MinisteráVladimir Putináhad toápersonally step ináto resolve one ofáthose scandals prior toáState Duma elections ináthe Primorye region. Theáresult was that election results fromátwo polling stations were nullified.

TheáAll-Russia Peopleĺs Front, anáumbrella structure intended toáreduce theáimpact ofáUnited Russiaĺs declining popularity, has taken part ináthe United Russia primaries ever since its inception andáhad anáeven greater presence this year than ever before. Theáprimaries are held ináa number of different formats proposed byáthe federal party leadership. Theáfirst format employs special party electors andáis mainly used forágubernatorial primaries ináboth direct elections andáregions such as Dagestan andáIngushetia, where theáparliaments have chosen toáappoint their governors. Theásecond format was employed last year andáallows foráthe participation ofáelectors fromápartner organizations.

Theáthird andámost liberal ofáthe new formats foráprimaries was given aátrial run last fall ináthe elections foráthe legislative assembly ofáSakhalin, garnering 50 percent ofáthe vote foráthe party ofápower foráthe first time inámany years. This type ofáprimary is similar toáordinary elections ináthat it reflects theáwill ofávoters andáis accompanied byáan election campaign andámedia coverage ofáeach stage ofáthe electoral process. Any citizen who can enlist theásupport ofá10 United Russia members has theáright toárun as aácandidate.

These elections are noteworthy foráthe decline ináthe number ofáUnited Russia candidates, aátrend already evident ináthe primaries. Some political analysts are already claiming that theáAll-Russia Peopleĺs Front is gradually becoming theánew ruling party. Ináthe gubernatorial elections ináChukotka, all ofáthe candidates, including theáincumbent, are with theápeopleĺs front. Theásame looks toábe true ináthe mayoral race ináVoronezh, where theáincumbent is also with theáfront. As foráthe two most troublesome regions foráUnited RussiaጠSmolensk, where theálegislative assembly will be elected, andáRyazan, where theáCity Duma will be formedጠUnited Russia is strengthening theálocal party lists with high-profile State Duma deputies andámembers ofáthe Federation Council.

Despite theáauthoritiesĺ slapdash attempt toámanipulate theáresults byáshifting theávote toálate summer, theáSept. 8 elections do not bode well foráUnited Russia. Atábest, theáparty might be able toáminimize its losses. Theáresults ofáthe campaign will be analyzed atáthe United Russia congress ináNovember, but significant changes ináparty politics should become evident much sooner, when theáAll-Russia Peopleĺs Front congress is held ináJune immediately following theáconclusion ofáthe United Russia primaries.á

Nikolai Petrov is aáprofessor ofápolitical science atátheáHigher School ofáEconomics in Moscow.



Thursday, Aug. 28

Learn more about the cityĺs upcoming municipal elections during the presentation of the project ôRoad Map for the Municipal Electionsö being presented this evening in the conference hall on the third floor of Biblioteka at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. Steve Kaddins, a coordinator for Beautiful St. Petersburg, which gives residents an online forum to lodge complaints about infrastructure problems in the city, will be on hand to answer any questions. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and is open to all.

Friday, Aug. 29

Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.

Saturday, Aug. 30

Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in ôDownton Abbeyö if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).

Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.

Sunday, Aug. 31

The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russiaĺs best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.

Monday, Sept. 1

Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russiaĺs most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkinĺs, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovĺs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systemĺs website for more details.

Tuesday, Sept. 2

Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubĺs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.

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