Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 232

Last week saw publication of the final results in the elections of regional legislatures held on December 9 in six Russian regions–Murmansk, Perm and Samara Oblasts, Primorsky and Khabarovsk Krais and the Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug. It turned out that the main threat the candidates faced was not their political opponents, but the passivity of the electorate (Polit.ru, December 10). In the end, turnout topped the required legal minimum in five of the six regions, and new deputies were accordingly elected there. But Primorsky Krai continued in its sad tradition, with the election ruled invalid by reason of low voter turnout. Low turnout will also require voting to be repeated in five electoral districts of Murmansk Oblast. And there will have to be a further ballot in one district of Khabarovsk Krai: There the vote was invalidated because the number of ballots cast “against all” exceeded those cast for any one candidate (Russian agencies, December 10, 14; FCI.ru, December 14).

In Primorye, eighteen deputies out of thirty-nine were elected. This is not enough, according to the krai’s charter, for a new legislative assembly to convene (FCI.ru, December 14). Here the culprit was. The presidential envoy to the Far Eastern federal district has ordered the establishment of a commission to investigate why Primorsky’s residents won’t come out to vote (Vremya Novostei, December 11). Sergei Sherstyuk, chief federal inspector in Primorsky Krai, has declared that the election was a failure not because voters are “passive or apolitical” but because the authorities were lazy and inefficient (Polit.ru, December 10). This is by no means the only reason, however. For one thing, Primorye voters are simply tired of elections. The election on December 9 was the third held in the region this year. For another thing, the experience of recent years has imbued the inhabitants of Primorye with a deep distrust of election processes. Year after year elections were invalidated, or their results challenged, whenever members of the local opposition managed to win. When Viktor Cherepkov–former Vladivostok mayor and strongest opposition candidate–won the first round of Primorye’s gubernatorial election on May 27, for example, he was simply eliminated from the race (Trud, December 11).

It has not yet been determined when the Primorsky Krai legislative assembly election will be repeated. According to Sherstyuk, a date will be set in early March (Polit.ru, December 10). Meanwhile, the question of who will set that date and when is itself creating problems for the local authorities. Supposedly, the date may be set by either the electoral commission or the incumbent legislative assembly. According to local law, however, the term of a deputy to the legislative assembly terminates as soon as his or her successor is elected. But the term of the legislative assembly as a whole ends only when two-thirds of its new members have been elected (Novye Izvestia, December 11). This means that, before the new assembly can convene, the status of the both the old assembly and the eighteen newly elected deputies will have to be clarified (Lenta.ru, December 10). The krai authorities have not yet indicated how they intend to solve this problem.