Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 207

Last week saw the close of registration for parties and individual candidates running in the election for the State Duma, set for December 19. Half of the Duma’s 450 seats are set aside for the winning parties, the other half for the winners of contests for single-mandate districts. Twenty-eight parties and blocs, fielding 3,736 candidates on their election lists, were registered, along with 2,300 candidates running in 224 single-mandate districts (Russian agencies, November 4; Trud, November 5).

The main parties and blocs in the election include Fatherland-All Russia, led by Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov; the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, led by Gennady Zyuganov; Yabloko, led by Grigory Yavlinsky; Russia is Our Home, headed by former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin; the Union of Right-wing Forces–which includes, among others, former Deputy Prime Ministers Anatoly Chubais and Boris Nemtsov; and Unity, the bloc hastily created recently (reportedly at the initiative of Kremlin insider Boris Berezovsky) and headed by Minister of Emergency Situations Sergei Shoigu.

Despite earlier statements by the Kremlin and the government that the main goal of the authorities in the election would be to prevent criminals from coming to power, a number of questionable candidates were registered. Among them is Yuri Shutov, the St. Petersburg politician currently in prison in Vyborg, who was arrested in February of this year on suspicion of leading an organized crime group and involvement in seven murders, including the killings of St. Petersburg banker Dmitri Filippov and Duma Deputy Vyacheslav Shevchenko. Shutov was registered last week as a candidate to a single-mandate district in St. Petersburg, and the city electoral commission rejected an appeal by the city prosecutor’s office, which argued that Shutov’s registration was illegal (Russian agencies, November 6). Aleksandr Khabarov, whom some media have identified as the head of the powerful Uralmash organized crime group, was registered as a candidate for a seat representing Yekaterinburg, both his and President Boris Yeltsin’s hometown (Izvestia, November 5).

The registration of Sergei Mikhailov–the Moscow businessmen whom some media have identified as “Mikhas,” head of the powerful Solntsevo crime organization–took a number of twists and turns. After successfully registering on November 3 as a candidate for a single-mandate seat representing Taganrog, a city in the region of Rostov, the local election committee there rescinded his registration after obtaining documents from the Greek Foreign Ministry showing that Mikhailov holds a Greek passport under a different name (Russian agencies, November 6). Mikhailov was originally on the candidate list for Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), but was dropped when the Central Election Commission (CEC) rejected the LDPR’s list of candidates. Zhirinovsky hastily formed a new bloc, called the Zhirinovsky Bloc, which the CEC registered. One newspaper quoted a source in Russia’s Interior Ministry as saying that 18-20 percent of the registered candidates for the Duma election have criminal backgrounds (Izvestia, November 5).

Also among the more controversial candidates registered to run for Duma are Kremlin insider Boris Berezovsky, who will contest a seat in the North Caucasus republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia; Roman Abramovich, the head of the Sibneft oil company and another Kremlin insider, who will run for a seat in the far northern region of Chukotka; and Yelena Mavrodi, wife of the notorious pyramid scheme founder Sergei Mavrodi. She is running for a seat representing the Tula region (Izvestia, November 5; Nezavisimaya gazeta, November 4).

The CEC last week also registered the bloc called Spas (Salvation), headed by Aleksandr Barkashov, leader of the neo-Nazi Russian National Unity movement. On November 6, however, the Justice Ministry filed suit in a Moscow court to annul Spas’ registration, on the grounds that it had supplied false information about the number of regional branches it has. Justice Minister Yuri Chaika said that groups which support “fascist ideology” cannot be permitted to have legislative representation (RTR, NTV, November 4).