Oligarch Politician Questions Russian City Elections

MOSCOW, April 1 (RIA Novosti) – Billionaire-turned-politician Mikhail Prokhorov demanded on Monday a revote at the mayoral elections in the Moscow Region’s city of Zhukovsky, where a candidate from his party lost amid vote fraud allegations.

Igor Novikov, a local businessman who ran on the ticket of Prokhorov’s Civic Platform, came in second with 27 percent of the votes on Sunday, according to official ballot count.

He lost to Andrei Voityuk, a pro-government candidate running as an independent who scored 36 percent – enough for a “first past the post” election, in which the candidate with the most votes wins. Communist Alexander Anikanov came third with 25 percent.

Turnout was at 37 percent in Zhukovsky, a hotbed of the aviation industry located some 15 miles southeast of Moscow with a population of about 100,000.

The vote made national headlines because it was seen as a litmus test for the Kremlin, whose hold on power in the country has been increasingly challenged by the opposition ever since the questioned parliamentary elections in December 2011. Moscow Region, Russia’s second most populous province, will also hold gubernatorial elections in September.

Prokhorov spoke of “blatant violations” at the Zhukovsky elections in a blog post, promising to go to court over each violation report, as did Anikanov.

No direct ballot stuffing was reported, but independent electoral watchdog Golos counted 75 instances of electoral violations, including vote buying.

Numerous video reports available on YouTube showed locals queuing up for their payments of 1,000 rubles ($33) per vote, some outright threatening the vote monitors filming them.

The head of the Moscow Region Election Commission, Irek Vildanov, said the violations were not substantial enough to affect the vote. No cases have been opened so far over violation reports.

“Foul play [in Zhukovsky]…sets the rules of the game for the gubernatorial elections in the [Moscow] Region this autumn,” Prokhorov, 47, said in his blog.

Prokhorov, whose fortune is estimated by Forbes magazine at $13 billion, jumped headfirst into Russian politics months before the 2011 elections. His surprising debut triggered allegations that he was a Kremlin spoiler, which were never either confirmed or entirely dispelled.


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