Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 224

Elections for St. Petersburg’s legislative assembly are set for Sunday, December 6, and the campaign in Russia’s second city continues to be characterized by dirty tricks and scandals. On Thursday night (December 3), NTV television reported that candidates have been buying votes from the city’s poor and elderly for 15 rubles (US80 cents) each. In recent weeks, the television channel and other media reported that St. Petersburg residents who had been permitted to vote early, including pensioners, were taken to the voting spots in minibuses accompanied by large young men with the short haircuts and dress typical of members of criminal organizations. Approximately 15,000 citizens have already cast their votes. One candidate for a legislative assembly seat, Viktor Krivulin, told NTV that an intermediary had offered to buy him the votes of 1,200 sailors from a naval barracks, despite the fact that they had been “pledged” to Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) (NTV, December 3).

Three representatives of the federal Central Electoral Commission (CEC) have reportedly been meeting in St. Petersburg with representatives of various electoral blocs to examine the charges of cheating. According to “Kommersant daily,” the CEC officials are interested in finding out who was behind the idea of introducing “doubles”–candidates with names identical to their opponents–into the race. The officials are also trying to determine who was involved in the creation of a party sharing the name of Grigory Yavlinsky’s Yabloko. The newspaper noted that while Yabloko helped incumbent Governor Vladimir Yakovlev oust his predecessor, Anatoly Sobchak, Yakovlev does not want to see Yabloko gain strength. It has been reported that the CEC may declare part or all of the preliminary voting invalid, and suggested that after Sunday (December 6), the day of the vote, the entire contest may be nullified (Kommersant daily, December 4). Meanwhile, a poll carried out by St. Petersburg State University among 3,500 city residents found that 16.4 percent supported Yabloko, 15.5 percent supported the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and 10.5 percent supported independent candidates. Other parties, the pollsters found, including Yegor Gaidar’s Russia’s Democratic Choice and Zhirinovsky’s LDPR, wound up as “outsiders,” with considerably fewer supporters (Nezavisimaya gazeta, December 4).