Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 228

Less than a week remains before the Moscow City Duma elections, set for this Sunday, December 16. Thus far the election campaign in the Russian capital, unlike those in most of Russia’s regions, has been unusually quiet. It became clear there would be no serious collisions after the publication of a unified list of candidates agreed upon by Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov and the four national political organizations participating in the Moscow elections–Unity, Fatherland, the Union of Right-Wing Forces and Yabloko (see the Monitor, November 13). It looked as if Luzhkov was urging voters simply to ratify a city legislature he himself had already chosen. Given the unsensational nature of the campaign, however, there is official concern lest the turnout prove to be less than the minimum required to legitimate the elections, that is, 25 percent of eligible voters. A turnout any lower than that would nullify the election results and strike a serious blow to the Moscow mayor’s position. This possibility was highlighted in a series of newspaper reports according to which Luzhkov had promised the city “fathers” that he would step down if turnout was below 25 percent on December 16 (Novaya Gazeta, Radio Ekho Moskvy, December 3). The reports asserted that, in cobbling together the unified list of candidates, the Luzhkov camp had failed to take account of “such a trifle” as the unwillingness of Muscovites to vote in support of a list of candidates “cooked up behind closed doors.” The Moscow elections may therefore be turning into a vote of confidence in the Moscow mayor. Luzhkov has dismissed these articles as “total nonsense” and a “political provocation.” Deputy Moscow Mayor Valery Shantsev has denied the rumors of his chief’s possible resignation, and claimed that polling data show that no more than 15 percent of the electorate plan to stay home on December 16 (NNS, Radio Ekho Moskvy, December 3-4). But the press cited other sources, allegedly located in the Moscow mayor’s office, according to which a low turnout is indeed a real threat (Moskovsky Komsomolets, December 4).