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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.


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Thursday, Apr. 17

Expocenter Eurasia at 13 Ulitsa Kapitan Voronin is the sight of Goods on the Way, a five-day event starting today showcasing the latest in the industrial products industry. Bags, backpacks, swimsuits and much, much more will be available to attendees hoping to update not only their style but their accessories for the upcoming summer.

Friday, Apr. 18

Teachers and students alike shouldnĺt miss the opportunity to establish lasting contacts with Russian and foreign institutions during the 21st Education and Career Fair at LenExpo, beginning today and finishing tomorrow. Learn more about education in Russia and connect with your fellow scholars.

The Tromso International Film Festival, Norwayĺs largest, brings a short festival to St. Petersburg for one day only during Scandinavian Oddities, starting at 7 p.m. today at Rodina Cinema Center. Tickets for the event are 100 rubles ($2.80).

Sunday, Apr. 20

Celebrate Easter at Pavlovsk during the Easter Fair that begins today and continues through next Sunday. Visitors will have the chance to paint Easter eggs and children can take part in games as well as help decorate a tree in honor of Christianityĺs holiest day.

Today is one of the final days to see the exhibit Cacti Ś Children of the Sun at the Peter the Great Botanical Garden. Starting Apr. 17, budding botanists will marvel at the variety and beauty of the desertĺs most iconic plant.

Monday, Apr. 21

Improve your grasp of Neruda, Bolano and Marquez at TrueDAĺs Beginners Spanish Lesson this evening at their location on the Petrograd Side. An experienced teacher will be on hand to help all attendees better understand the intricacies of the language and improve their accent.

Tuesday, Apr. 22

SPIBAĺs Breakfast with the Director event series continues as the association welcomes Andrei Barannikov, general director of SPN Communications, to the Anna Pavlova Hall of the Angleterre Hotel this morning at 9 a.m. Attendees must confirm their participation by Apr. 21.

The AmCham Environment, Health and Safety Committee Meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. this morning in the their St. Petersburg office.