Early elections for mayor
of Russia’s capital will be held on Sept. 8. This will be the opposition’s
zero-hour: The key electorate for opponents of the regime is represented most
widely in Moscow. If the opposition does not win on its own turf, the protest
movement may be forgotten for a long time to come.
year’s elections in the Moscow suburb of Khimki were seen by many as a dress
rehearsal for the upcoming battle for Moscow. Consequently, the voting there
was closely followed by all of Russia’s political observers—as was the
protest leaders have been offered the chance to take their revenge far sooner
than they expected: The next mayoral elections in Moscow were scheduled to take
place only in 2015. The opposition’s plans have been thrown into disarray by
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin’s sudden resignation.
for a new mayor will take place in less than three months, on Sept. 8, and many
experts doubt that the opposition is ready to do battle.
cost of the matter
the powers that be and the opposition grew up reading the same history books, in
which Moscow invariably had symbolic significance. For Russians, the critical
moment in the Napoleonic Wars was the Moscow Fire, while the critical moment in
World War II was the battle for Moscow.
Infographics: Moscow announced deadlines for mayoral nomination
In short, victory in the capital is a
guarantee of future success, just as defeat is a guarantee of failure.
if one discounts the symbolic meaning of these elections, an awful lot is at
stake. Moscow is one of two Russian cities that have the status of a separate
region of the Russian Federation. But the Moscow mayor is more powerful than
any of Russia’s regional governors.
On Sept. 8, Russians will be electing not
just the head of the city, but one of the top officials in Putin’s
administration. To insert one’s own man at that level would be an epoch-making
victory for the administration.
the same time, one must not forget about the economic aspect of this matter.
For Russia, Moscow is a major financial, business and administrative center
that sets the tone for the development of the rest of the country. Officially,
the population of Moscow stands at 12 million; unofficially, it reaches 20
million. Moscow is one of the 10 largest cities in the world.
addition, Moscow boasts roughly half of all the banks registered in Russia, as
well as the headquarters of many major corporations. Moscow is one of the top 10
cities in Europe deemed most attractive to investors.
The city’s GDP exceeds
$300 billion, which is not less than one-sixth of the national GDP. To receive
control of such vast financial resources, the opposition would have to win at
least 10 gubernatorial elections in key regions of Russia.
the chances of the protest’s ideologists winning in Moscow are far greater than
they are in other regions. The protest’s electoral nucleus is concentrated in
the capital. Moscow sent hundreds of thousands of people out into the streets
to protest, whereas even the largest regional centers could muster no more than
a couple of thousand at best.
The Kremlin candidate
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin is not only the favorite; he is, in large part,
the initiator of this race. Political observers are divided in their
assessments of his decision to resign early: Some were taken by complete
surprise, while others were quick to say that they had seen this resignation
are signs of an active PR campaign and a situation with opponents who have had no
time to mature,” said political observer Mikhail Remizov. “All of this attests
to a fairly favorable situation for the holding of elections now, since
Sobyanin has no strong rivals today.”
observer Alexei Makarkin believes Sobyanin may have other interests as well. In
Makarkin’s opinion, a victory in open elections instead of an appointment from
on high would allow Sobyanin to confirm his legitimacy.
has already made public his list of priorities. A number of his initiatives,
such as equipping city parks and organizing bicycle paths, have met with the
public’s approval. Other plans, such as the idea of paving sidewalks in the
center of the city with bricks, have been less well-received.
The main contender
the foreign press’ principal discovery of the past season was Alexei Navalny,
for domestic observers, the more interesting figure is Mikhail Prokhorov — the
billionaire businessman and founder of the Civic Platform party.
Mikhail Prokhorov should
have been Sergei Sobyanin’s main competitor.
Source: AFP / East News
He has put
together a strong team of original and independent thinkers who, most importantly,
have not been sullied by the political machinations of supporters.
should have been Sobyanin’s main competitor.
on June 16, Prokhorov announced that he would not take part in the race. He stated
that he would not likely have time to make his business conform to the
requirements established for mayoral candidates, which includes transferring
all of his foreign assets to Russia.
the time allotted, I technically will not be able to transfer my assets cleanly
and qualitatively,” said Prokhorov.
the same time, the businessman criticized the very idea of early elections. He
said that the ruling United Russia party “had done everything not to allow
Civic Platform to run as the main candidate in the mayoral elections.”
of taking part in the battle for the post of mayor, Prokhorov has decided to
prepare for the City Duma elections scheduled for 2014. He emphasized that
control over the legislative assembly was more important than the post of mayor.
response to Prokhorov’s accusations, United Russia claimed that, for the
businessman, “foreign assets turned out to be more important than voters’
interests.” Supporters of Prokhorov called the results of the election a
foregone conclusion, and all candidates—except Sobyanin—spoilers.
has to admit that many of them do indeed look like spoilers—but not the leader
of the new wave opposition, Alexei Navalny.
Navalny: Judgment Day for the protest movement
upcoming elections in Moscow promise to be this year’s most important
confrontation between the ruling power in the person of Sobyanin and the
opposition as represented by Alexei Navalny.
Navalny plans to make the state of the city’s infrastructure a
priority. Source: AP
program has already been published: the
opposition leader plans to make the state of the city’s infrastructure a
Sobyanin, for example, has not managed to solve the transport
problem, and Navalny means to use this as his trump card.
far, not one of the rehearsals for the great battle to come has brought Navalny
appreciable results. The elections in cities near Moscow and the voting in
regional elections have invariably ended in victory for candidates from the
ruling party, United Russia.
opposition will have to marshal all its resources in order to alter this trend
and mobilize all its supporters. At the same time, Navalny will have to make
his “urgent appeal” during the summer months, when the so-called creative class
is on vacation far away from the capital.
The race of the latecomers
is worth noting that Navalny’s chances are, in any case, greater than those of
other participants in the race.
Sergei “Spider” Troitsky has run for mayor twice before, but without any noticeable success. Source: ITAR-TASS
second-echelon group announced its plans to run far more efficiently than the
core of the opposition. The first to announce their mayoral ambitions were
three Muscovites who decided to run as self-nominated candidates.
there came the declaration of scandalous musician Sergei Troitsky, who is better
known as “Spider.” He has run for mayor twice before — in the Moscow suburbs of
Zhukovsk and Khimki — but without any noticeable success.
the first week following the announcement of early mayoral elections,
candidates from four opposition parties declared that they would run too.
Number of contenders for Moscow mayor office grows to 33
Navalny hails United Russia initiative to help him register as candidate for Moscow mayor
Russian opposition ready to nominate Navalny as candidate for Moscow mayor
Moscow’s mayor steps down to fight election
none of the political heavyweights have decided to participate in the race. The
single exception is the veteran of the Communist party, Ivan Melnikov. As a
result, most observers expect the main fight to be between Sobyanin and Navalny.
The pensioners and unemployed
The current race for Moscow mayor has the most crowded field ever. The Election Commission had received more than 30 applications by the end of June.
RIA Novosti headlines hint at who some of the candidates are: “Another Unemployed Man to Run for Mayor,” or, “One More Pensioner to Run in Moscow Mayor Election.”
Some political heavyweights, such as the Communist Party, have also graced the capital with their attention, but they are not fielding their charismatic leaders as candidates.
Sobyanin calls them “serious challengers,” while other candidates call them spoilers who are there to divert votes from the real opposition.
Click to enalrge the infographics