Publication: Prism Volume: 2 Issue: 6

The Results in Novosibirsk: A Portent for June?

by Grigory V. Golosov

The recent Duma elections in Russia have been won by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF). Does this mean that the party’s leader, Gennady Zyuganov, will inevitably win this year’s competition for the Russian presidency? Some would argue that such an outcome is not preordained, citing the lack of electoral strength on the part of the KPRF (after all, about 80 percent of the Russian electorate voted for nonCommunist parties in the December elections), the incumbency advantage of the major proreform candidate, and the presence of strong opposition competitors to the Communist nominee. In order to test the validity of this argument, it is useful to consider the case of a recent executive election in Russia where all of the abovestated conditions also existed, and the KPRF candidate won anyway. The gubernatorial election in the Novosibirsk province, held in December 1995 at the same time as the elections to the State Duma, appears to be exactly such a case. Although the province is not representative of Russia as a whole, the observable and important similarities suggests that closer examination of the case of Novosibirsk may result in a better understanding of the prospects for the current presidential campaign.

ProReform Candidates

The incumbent governor, Ivan Indinok, made a successful Communist era political career first as party committee secretary of a large defense enterprise, and then within the Novosibirsk city party apparatus. In 1988, he became head of the city administration. Indinok won the first mayoral election in Novosibirsk in 1991. If only to secure the support of the then largely proYeltsin Novosibirsk electorate, Indinok had to dissociate himself from his communist past and adopt a proreform political position. He subsequently began to be viewed as a "moderate reformer" both in Moscow and in Novosibirsk. This reputation, as well as his administrative experience and political skills, helped Indinok to secure the position of gubernator in 1993 and to win a seat in the Council of the Federation in December 1993. During the campaign, many local observers assumed Indinok was virtually guaranteed to win because he belonged to the allegedly allmighty "party of power."(1) In addition to the enormous organizational resources naturally allocated to the senior executive officeholder, Indinok was supported by the provincial branch of the "Russia is Our Home" political movement. Moreover, the provincial branch of the Agrarian party, despite the opposition stance of the party’s Moscow leadership and its close ties with the KPRF, unequivocally supported Indinok’s gubernatorial bid. (2)

In addition to Indinok, a number of other proreform candidates contested the election. One of them, Aleksei Manannikov, joined the dissident movement in the early eighties and was sentenced to several years in prison for "antistate activities." Released from prison, Manannikov resumed his dissident activities, eventually emerging as the recognized leader of the "democratic movement" in Novosibirsk. In this capacity, he was elected a people’s deputy of Russia, and effectively led the Novosibirsk organization of Democratic Russia. After the October 1993 events in Moscow, however, Manannikov started to dissociate himself from Yeltsin, condemning his actions as "antidemocratic" and "anticonstitutional." Democratic Russia, which served as Manannikov’s major political instrument for more than five years, effectively ceased to exist in the province as a result of successive defeats in the local elections, internal conflicts, and splits. (3) This loss, however, was outweighed by Manannikov’s personal political resources stemming from his wellestablished connections with the local media. In particular, an independent local TV channel, NTN4, proved to be quite instrumental in Manannikov’s campaign.

Ivan Starikov emerged in the political arena of the province on the eve of the 1993 campaign. A successful state agricultural farm manager, he won his Duma seat in a largely rural constituency. Local observers attributed his unexpected victory to the fact that his rivals were all urban dwellers. In the Duma, Starikov sharply opposed policies pursued by the Ministry of Agriculture, and thereby by the leadership of the Agrarian party. (4) Subsequently, in what may be viewed as an interesting case of postcommunist institutional pluralism, he was appointed as the deputy minister of economy in charge of the agroindustrial complex. In addition to his ministerial influence, Starikov could rely for support on the Novosibirsk organization of Russia’s Democratic Choice. While the organization was not very important in Novosibirsk, it did have some positive experience of political campaigning: two of its nominees had been elected to the Council of Deputies in 1994.

Opposition Candidates

Vitaly Mukha’s political career started in the Gorbachev era. He was named second secretary of the Novosibirsk provincial party committee in 1988 and then became chairman of the provincial soviet. In August 1991, his loyalty to Yeltsin was rewarded by his appointment as gubernator. Eventually, however, Mukha joined Khasbulatov and Rutskoi in their antiYeltsin campaign. In September 1993, he was among the few heads of provincial administrations who overtly opposed Yeltsin’s dissolution of the parliament. After the defeat of Mukha’s allies in Moscow, he was fired by Yeltsin and started a new career in banking, making an impressive comeback only on the eve of the 1995 campaign.

The major political vehicle of Mukha was the Novosibirsk organization of the KPRF. Restored in early 1993, the organization, with its more than 3200 members, soon became the largest political party in the province. However, the 1994 provincial legislative elections were not very successful for the Communists. While the KPRF nominated candidates in nearly all urban constituencies, only two of them won seats in the Council of Deputies. Unlike in many other provinces of Russia — most notably, in the neighboring Kemerovo province — the local Communist leaders in Novosibirsk were not very popular, nor even wellknown to the public. This partly explains why Mukha, who did not participate in any party activities in 19911995, still managed to secure the support of the organization. On the other hand, Mukha’s own need for this support became evident in the initial stages of the campaign, with more than 20,000 signatures required for his nomination having been collected almost exclusively by the Communists. (5) After his nomination, Mukha continued to rely on party support, supplemented by his wellestablished ties with local decisionmakers and the media. The most popular local newspaper, Sovetskaya Sibir’, covered his campaign not very closely but rather favorably.

Yet another candidate of the "unbending opposition," Yevgeny Loginov, was the only competitor who derived his political authority almost exclusively from his affiliation to a political party. A military officer in his twenties, he entered the Duma on Zhirinovsky’s LDPR ticket after the 1993 elections. Unlike many of Zhirinovsky’s recruits, Loginov used his mandate to achieve some popularity in the province, not only by attracting wide media coverage to his militant political style, but also — and primarily – by raising the crucial issue of fighting crime in an energetic manner that obviously appealed to some sections of the electorate. This made the Novosibirsk province unique in that, unlike many other Russian regions, it had a local LDPR leader whose popularity could be comparable to that of Zhirinovsky on the national level. On the other hand, his lack of administrative experience placed Loginov in a disadvantageous position a visavis other candidates. Loginov’s major political resource was his party. Its Novosibirsk organization, small in terms of its membership and lacking any record of electoral success on the local level, still managed to attract some additional publicity to its leader during the campaign.

The Campaign and Election Results

Quite naturally, one of the major campaign themes was Indinok’s record in office. The incumbent governor’s supporters tried their best to emphasize some of the real accomplishments of the administration, such as the relative economic stabilization achieved in 1995 or success in the development of the public transportation system in Novosibirsk. Responding to this strategy, Indinok’s opponents succeeded in putting the issue of corruption high on the preelectoral agenda, attracting rather wide media attention to the support offered by Indinok to an allegedly fraudulent corporation, TransBlok, and to his inability to solve the problem of the "deceived investors." (6) It must be noted, however, that the electoral program of Mukha, rather than focusing on the problems of the province, concentrated mostly on the issues of "unjust privatization," "the lack of a unifying idea recognized by our society as a whole," and even an "immature foreign policy," (7) Many local observers suggested that the highly ideological style of Mukha’s campaign would work against him, and viewed Indinok as the frontrunner in the race. The major concern of Indinok’s supporters was, correspondingly, that low voter turnout in the runoff would deprive the incumbent of his victory. In fact, the turnout dropped from 67.4 percent to about 42 percent, which was quite sufficient to validate the election result.

In the first round, Indinok led the race with 308,552 votes (23.2 percent of the vote), followed by Mukha (245,141 votes or 18.4 percent), Manannikov (17.8 percent), Starikov (17.2 percent), Loginov (15.8 percent), Frantsev (2.3 percent), and Isayev (1.0 percent). A small percentage of the electorate–4.3 percent–voted against all candidates.

Thus in the first round of the election, the proreform candidates were rather successful. Clearly, the voters tended to support proreform personalities in their gubernatorial bids rather than proreform parties in their bids for Duma representation. In Novosibirsk, the national list of the KPRF received a plurality of the vote — 21.07 percent. The LDPR polled 17.89 percent, and other radical opposition parties — about 8 percent jointly. Both Mukha and Loginov received fewer votes than their respective parties, the KPRF and the LDPR. In contrast, both Indinok and Starikov fared much better than "Russia is Our Home" and Russia’s Democratic Choice, which received 7.11 and 2.20 percent of the vote, respectively. In the runoff election, however, Mukha defeated Indinok by a margin of more than 140 thousand votes (466,292 to 321,782). (8)

Indinok’s poor showing in the runoff can be partly explained with reference to the decreased turnout, assuming that the proopposition activists were more likely to vote than politically passive "moderates." In fact, however, the final number of votes cast for Mukha exceeded the combined number of votes cast for Mukha and Loginov in the first round of the election (455,875), clearly suggesting that some voters who initially supported proreform candidates shifted to Mukha in the runoff. Given the specific context of the election, this appears to be understandable. During the campaign, it was the potential electorate of Indinok, not of Mukha and Loginov, that had to be targeted as the potential base of support for four other proreform candidates. Correspondingly, each of these candidates had to focus his rhetoric on what distanced him from the incumbent, which explains the salience of the anticorruption theme in the campaign. In the runoff, the ideologically motivated vote for the opposition, personified by Mukha, was supplemented with the nonideological vote coming from those people who viewed Mukha as the alternative to the largely discredited incumbent.


What lessons can be learned by the Russian reformers from the Communist comeback in Novosibirsk? First, the case of Novosibirsk proves that the advantage of incumbency does not determine the results of senior executive elections in Russia. At the same time, it demonstrates that this advantage is likely to vanish in the runoff, particularly if in the first round the incumbent defeats strong proreform competitors. The KPRF, in contrast, tends to fare better in the runoff than in the first round, which neutralizes the effects of the lack of "firm" electoral support on its part.

Second, while the presence of a strong nonCommunist opposition candidate on the ballot definitely complicates the picture for the KPRF, this factor is unlikely to decide the outcome of the election. In the first round of the Novosibirsk election, the combined vote for Mukha and Loginov did not sum up to an absolute majority, suggesting the inevitability of a runoff. In the runoff, however, Mukha naturally emerged as the joint candidate of the opposition. Third, the proliferation of proreform candidates works for the KPRF. In Novosibirsk, 9,000 additional votes for Manannikov could have prevented Mukha from participating in the runoff. They could easily have been provided if any of the proreform competitors, even Isayev whose "democratic alternative" rhetoric obviously appealed to Manannikov’s electorate, had stepped out of the race. The repetition of the Novosibirsk scenario in the fight for the Russian presidency is likely to result in Zyuganov’s victory. So far, however, the Russian reformers have done remarkably little to prevent such a repetition.


1. Vecherny Novosibirsk, November 10, 1995

2. Novaya Sibir, November 23, 1995

3. Vecherny Novosibirsk, March 31, 1995

4. Novosibirskie novosti, November 11, 1995

5. Novosibirskie novosti, November 25, 1995

6. Vecherny Novosibirsk, December 1, 1995

7. Vecherny Novosibirsk, December 8, 1995

8. Sovetskaya Sibir, December 28, 1995

Grigory V. Golosov is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Novosibirsk State University. Research for this article was supported in part by a grant from IREX, with funds provided by the United States Information Agency. None of these organizations is responsible for the views expressed.