Publication: Prism Volume: 2 Issue: 13

The Election in the Regions

By Andrei Zhukov

The results of the second round of the Russian presidential electionsare, perhaps, most interesting when viewed from the standpointof regional preferences because the future president will be dealing,not with each individual voter who voted for him, but with the89 subjects of the Federation, which have unambiguously expressedtheir sympathies.

According to preliminary figures, Gennady Zyuganov won in 31 Federationsubjects. His position was especially strong in Adygea, the Altaikrai, Chuvashia, and also in most of the "red belt"oblasts (Belgorod, Bryansk, Voronezh, Kursk, Lipetsk, Orel, Penza,and Tambov). In these regions, Zyuganov led Yeltsin by more than15 percent. The vote for Zyuganov was slightly less significantin the Trans-Baikal region, the Novosibirsk, Kurgan, and Kemerovooblasts, and in the south of Russia (Stavropol krai, Krasnodarkrai). Here, Zyuganov’s lead over Yeltsin fluctuated from 5 to15 percent.

Boris Yeltsin’s showing was strongest in the largest cities (Moscowand St. Petersburg), where he led Zyuganov by 59 percent and 52percent respectively, the northern regions of European Russia(for example, in the Arkhangelsk and Murmansk oblasts, Yeltsinled Zyuganov by more than 30 percent), in the regions specializingin the import and export of goods (the Kaliningrad oblast andthe Tyumen region in particular), in the Far East (in the Khabarovskkrai and Chukotka), and in most of the national republics.

In general, Yeltsin’s lead was biggest in the Ural region (wherehe led Zyuganov by 19 percent), and smallest in Siberia (wherethe gap between them was only two percent.) Voting in the FarEast and a group of regions in Central Russia coincided with thenational average (with Yeltsin leading by 13 percent).

It is interesting to compare the results of the present electionswith those of the 1991 presidential election. Then, it was theFar East, the northern regions of European Russia, both capitals,and the Ural and Trans-Ural regions which supported Yeltsin mostheavily. At that time, the national republics took a clearly anti-Yeltsinposition (except for the Islamic republics of the Transcaucasus,which supported Yeltsin). At that time, the Altai, Tuva, and Khakassiavoted heavily against Yeltsin. The Kemerovo, Pskov, Smolensk,and Tver oblasts were already recognized to be anti-Yeltsin strongholds.And this has remained the case to this day.

In comparison to 1991, Yeltsin received more votes in Kalmykia,Tatarstan, the Altai, Tuva, in both Buryat autonomous districts,the Evenk, Nenets, Khanty-Mansiisk and Koryak autonomous districts,Chukotka, the Komi Republic, Karelia and Buryatia. In all theseregions, his result was at least 15 percent better than it wasin 1991. Yeltsin’s share of the electorate grew significantlyin the northern oblasts and in the Kaliningrad oblast.

Yeltsin’s greatest losses were in the "red belt" regions,in the Sverdlovsk, Orenburg, and Chelyabinsk oblasts, and in theVolga region. Obviously, back in 1991, these regions put muchmore hope in Yeltsin. This year, many voters voted against Yeltsinin the Islamic republics of the Caucasus (in Adygea and Karachaevo-Cherkessiain particular), which is undoubtedly linked to the war in Chechnya.

Thus, as Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky has justly pointedout, Yeltsin’s "obvious policy mistakes" led Yeltsinback to where he stood five years ago: "Yeltsin faces thesame opponents (that is, the Communists — in 1991, it was Ryzhkov,now, it’s Zyuganov), and they are at least as strong now as theywere back then."

It is also interesting to compare the results of the first andsecond rounds of the 1996 presidential election. Boris Yeltsin’svote went up most (over 20 percent) in Dagestan, Tatarstan, andthe Ivanovo and Yaroslavl oblasts. Undoubtedly, this growth isdue, in part, to the redistribution of votes given to the "thirdforce" (Lebed, Yavlinsky, and Svyatoslav Fedorov) in thefirst round. (We are looking at these politicians because theyare the ones associated with the "reformist forces"in the public consciousness.)

Here are the preliminary figures for Russia’s five biggest regions:In the first round, the representatives of the "third force"(Lebed, Yavlinsky, and Fedorov) got approximately 17 percent ofthe vote in Moscow, and Yeltsin increased his share by about 16percent in the second round. In the Moscow oblast, these numberswere 23 percent and 21 percent respectively, in the Krasnodarkrai — 24 percent and 18 percent, in St. Petersburg — 29 percentand 24 percent, and in the Sverdlovsk oblast — 19 percent and17 percent. Thus, it is obvious that Yeltsin got most, but notall, of the "third force" vote.

The picture looks slightly different in Russia’s national republics.In Bashkiria, the "third force" got 16 percent of thevote in the first round, and Yeltsin’s share of the vote increasedby 17 percent from the first round to the second. In Tatarstan,these figures were 14 percent and 27 percent respectively, inDagestan — 3 percent and 23 percent, In Udmurtia — 21 percentand 16 percent, in Kabardino-Balkaria — 13 percent and 19 percent.Obviously, in the national republics (except for Udmurtia, wherethe majority of the population is not of the titular ethnic group),Yeltsin’s vote went up by a larger percentage than that takenby the "third force" in the first round.

In truth, the "third force" did not have much of a chancein the national republics: voters in these republics preferredto vote for either Yeltsin or Zyuganov. Obviously, in additionto the redistribution of the "third force" vote, someof the Communist vote went to Yeltsin as well. Apparently, Communistvoters who were oriented towards the local elite changed theirmind and voted for Yeltsin. (Incidentally, this confirms the theory,popular among analysts, that the Communist electorate can be "manipulated.")

According to well-known Russian analyst Mark Urnov, there arethree reasons why Yeltsin had such success in the runoff election.First, the changes in Yeltsin’s team, which demonstrated the president’sdecisiveness and flexibility. Second, the scandal in the Communistcamp (the radicals called for a boycott of the election, whilethe moderates sought to establish contacts with the government–theresult being that some of the Communists turned their backs onZyuganov). Third, the election was thoroughly observed, whichexcluded the possibility of fraud.

But it seems that there were other reasons as well. In particular,it is well-known that Yeltsin’s emissaries made a number of "raids"on electorally "unfavorable" regions. After one of thesemeetings, Murtaza Rakhimov, the president of Bashkiria, gatheredthe local chiefs of administration together and told them thatif their regions supported Zyuganov the second time around, itwould be a sign of their own "professional incompetence,"which would lead to the appropriate "organizational conclusions,"[orgvyvody] i.e., they would be fired. After this, a numberof regions (most of all, the national republics) which had supportedZyuganov in the first round, switched to vote for Yeltsin in therunoff.

In general, the Russian Federation’s national republics votedaccording to the following principle: we support the incumbent.If, in 1991, most of these republics voted against Yeltsin, today,they are inclined to vote for him. This indicates that a certainamount of pressure was placed on these republics. But it was clearlynot very heavy: five years had passed since the previous election.But something else is clear as well: Moscow has effective leversto manipulate sentiments in the republics. Thus, all the talkof "a parade of sovereignties" is now a thing of thepast. It appears that local separatism no longer threatens theintegrity of the Russian Federation. Moreover, according to optimisticforecasts, after the elections, the experience gained in dealingwith national formations in these republics will be used in Chechnya,which will lead to the solution of this problem as well…

Translated by Aleksandr Kondorsky and Mark Eckert