Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 233

Russia’s parliamentary election campaign is winding to a close in much the same way that it began–fraught with mutual accusations of cheating and dirty tricks. Yesterday, Vyacheslav Igrunov, a top official of Grigory Yavlinsky’s Yabloko, charged that the Moscow authorities were committing “open and large-scale” violations of Russia’s electoral laws. In particular, Igrunov accused the Moscow police of not allowing opponents of Fatherland-All Russia (OVR)–the coalition headed by Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov–to electioneer, and that the election headquarters of some of Luzhkov opponents had been illegally shut down. “In such a situation, we will not be able to trust the results of the December 19 voting,” Igrunov said. The Moscow police reportedly arrested two Yabloko supporters yesterday for handing out election literature for Sergei Ivanenko, who is Yabloko’s deputy chairman and is running for reelection to the Duma. Yabloko spokeswoman Yevgenia Dillendorf accused the Moscow authorities of using their official positions to harass their political opponents.

The Yabloko-ites were joined in their accusations against Luzhkov and the Moscow authorities by Sergei Nikitin, secretary of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation’s (KPRF) Moscow branch, and Aleksei Mitrofanov, a leader of Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR). Mitrofanov is one of the candidates challenging Luzhkov in the Moscow mayoral contest, which, like the State Duma election, will take place in three days (on Sunday, December 19). Mitrofanov’s lawyer, Tagir Samokaev, charged that the Moscow City Election Commission was in Luzhkov’s pocket and was planning to falsify the Sunday voting (Russian agencies, December 15).

Other parties and blocs–including the Union of Right-wing Forces (SPS), which includes Anatoly Chubais and former Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko, who is also challenging Luzhkov in the mayor’s race–have also accused the Moscow authorities of dirty tricks. The SPS said that it will seek legal recourse for the arrest of its activists, who held an anti-Luzhkov demonstration near the Ostakino television center on December 14. The demonstrators, who had not received a permit from the city authorities, were disbursed by police. Several dozen were arrested, but were released the same day (see the Monitor, December 15). Meanwhile, a pro-Luzhkov newspaper yesterday claimed it had gotten hold of confidential SPS documents putatively showing that the bloc had been planning to provoke the Moscow authorities into taking actions that were “impulsive, harsh and inadequate from the point of view of law,” which the SPS could then use against Luzhkov in the media and in the courts (Versty, December 15).

At the same time, Vladimir Komarovsky, Russia’s deputy justice minister, announced yesterday that his ministry will carry out a comprehensive audit of the activities of Fatherland, the movement Luzhkov heads. Komarovsky said that some of Fatherland’s regional chapters had been found to be violating various regulations, including financial ones. He said the investigation would take place after this weekend’s election (Russian agencies, December 15). It is interesting to note that the Justice Ministry investigation will be aimed at Fatherland, but not its coalition partner All Russia, which is headed by Primakov and made up of influential regional leaders. Indeed, a pro-Luzhkov newspaper alleged today that the Kremlin’s main strategy is now aimed at prying All Russia away from Fatherland (Segodnya, December 16).

According to a poll taken on December 10-12 by the Agency for Regional Political Research, 45 percent of Russians believe that the Duma elections will be rigged, and 26 percent believe they will be fair (Russian agencies, December 15). Some of the Duma candidates themselves have also expressed skepticism about the process. Ella Pamfilova, who served as Russia’s social minister in the early 1990s and is running for the Duma as head of the small “For Civic Dignity” movement, said that this latest election campaign was the most “cynical and harsh” of the last ten years. For his part, Vladimir Ryzhkov, head of the Russia is Our Home faction in the Duma, called the campaign a “fatal conflict” between the ruling clans–meaning the pro-Luzhkov forces, on the one hand, and the pro-Kremlin forces on the other (Obshchaya gazeta, December 16).