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United Russia Primed for Primaries

Published: May 22, 2013 (Issue # 1760)

ByNikolai Petrov

United Russia started primaries last week inmost ofthe regions that will hold elections onSept. 8.

Primaries have been initiated andare now overseen bypresidential deputy chief ofstaffVyacheslav Volodin. Their purpose is toimprove thequality ofparty candidates andto prevent conflicts among theelite when forming party lists. TheKremlins goal is not tocontrol theprocess since primaries are largely thedomain oflocal party authorities. If governors can produce thedesired results, Moscow does not interfere. Whats more, United Russia primaries are consultative innature anddo not have adirect effect. Widespread manipulation ofthe primaries sparked anumber ofscandals. In2011, then-Prime MinisterVladimir Putinhad topersonally step into resolve one ofthose scandals prior toState Duma elections inthe Primorye region. Theresult was that election results fromtwo polling stations were nullified.

TheAll-Russia Peoples Front, anumbrella structure intended toreduce theimpact ofUnited Russias declining popularity, has taken part inthe United Russia primaries ever since its inception andhad aneven greater presence this year than ever before. Theprimaries are held ina number of different formats proposed bythe federal party leadership. Thefirst format employs special party electors andis mainly used forgubernatorial primaries inboth direct elections andregions such as Dagestan andIngushetia, where theparliaments have chosen toappoint their governors. Thesecond format was employed last year andallows forthe participation ofelectors frompartner organizations.

Thethird andmost liberal ofthe new formats forprimaries was given atrial run last fall inthe elections forthe legislative assembly ofSakhalin, garnering 50 percent ofthe vote forthe party ofpower forthe first time inmany years. This type ofprimary is similar toordinary elections inthat it reflects thewill ofvoters andis accompanied byan election campaign andmedia coverage ofeach stage ofthe electoral process. Any citizen who can enlist thesupport of10 United Russia members has theright torun as acandidate.

These elections are noteworthy forthe decline inthe number ofUnited Russia candidates, atrend already evident inthe primaries. Some political analysts are already claiming that theAll-Russia Peoples Front is gradually becoming thenew ruling party. Inthe gubernatorial elections inChukotka, all ofthe candidates, including theincumbent, are with thepeoples front. Thesame looks tobe true inthe mayoral race inVoronezh, where theincumbent is also with thefront. As forthe two most troublesome regions forUnited Russia Smolensk, where thelegislative assembly will be elected, andRyazan, where theCity Duma will be formed United Russia is strengthening thelocal party lists with high-profile State Duma deputies andmembers ofthe Federation Council.

Despite theauthorities slapdash attempt tomanipulate theresults byshifting thevote tolate summer, theSept. 8 elections do not bode well forUnited Russia. Atbest, theparty might be able tominimize its losses. Theresults ofthe campaign will be analyzed atthe United Russia congress inNovember, but significant changes inparty politics should become evident much sooner, when theAll-Russia Peoples Front congress is held inJune immediately following theconclusion ofthe United Russia primaries.

Nikolai Petrov is aprofessor ofpolitical science attheHigher School ofEconomics in Moscow.



Friday, Jan. 30 through Wednesday, Feb. 4

A retrospective of the films of Roman Polanski starts today at Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt, with a screening of Repulsion at 7 p.m. and Rosemarys Baby at 9:15 p.m. The series runs through Feb. 4 and will include Polanski's eminently creepy The Tenant, the cult comedy The Fearless Vampire Killers and Cul-de-sac among others. Tickets are 150-200 rubles and the complete schedule is available at

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