“Friends, we have won,” Xenia Fadejewa said with this phrase on Twitter the night after the regional and local elections in Russia. “I think you understand how important it was to win after everything that happened in Tomsk,” wrote Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s local staff coordinator.
Xenia Fadejewa moves to the city council in Tomsk, Siberia Photo: Maxim Shemetov / REUTERS
Tomsk is a city in Siberia with half a million inhabitants, many of whom are students. It is almost 3000 kilometers to Moscow, Kazakhstan and Mongolia are closer. The big city has rarely received as much attention as it does today. Navalny ended his trip to Siberia in Tomsk, where he investigated corruption among local elites and supported the opposition in the election campaign. The flight on which Navalny collapsed a little later took off from here.
Navalny wanted to steal mandates from the ruling party
Now in Tomsk, what Navalny campaigned for has succeeded: stealing mandates from the Kremlin party “United Russia”. According to the official preliminary results, the ruling party reached just under 25 percent in elections on Sunday and can only occupy eleven of the 37 seats on the city council. It is still the strongest force, but now without a majority. In 2015, just under 52 percent voted for the party. A member of Tomsk’s Election Commission, Tatiana Doroshenko, said she cannot recall “United Russia” doing so badly for the past 15 years.
It was not only in Tomsk that the independent opposition, often denied a chance to vote, was successful. In the neighboring city of Novosibirsk, Russia’s third-largest city, the formerly dominant ruling party also suffered losses. However, five candidates from the Nawalny area managed to join the city council.
“United Russia” remains strong
Navalny and his team had campaigned to vote “sensibly”: for every candidate – against the Kremlin party. In Moscow, Navalny had been successful with it last year. This time one tactic could not prevail. Apart from the respectable successes in Siberia, there were no major surprises. “United Russia” remains the dominant force in the regions – despite low polls for both the party and President Vladimir Putin. According to the results of local election commissions, it was largely able to defend its majority.
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The elections were seen as an important voting test for next year, after which a new parliament will be established. Andrei Turchak, General Secretary of the Kremlin Party, stated that the opposition’s strategy had failed.
In Tomsk votes are counted. Election manipulation has been reported in many places. Photo: Maxim Shemetov / REUTERS
More than 1500 manipulations registered
None of the 18 governors supported by the Kremlin was replaced; not even, contrary to what is expected in some places, forced into the second round. The governors are particularly important to the Kremlin because Moscow directly influences the politics of individual parts of the country through the heads of the regions.
For three days, millions of Russians were called to vote in large parts of the country. Governors, municipal councilors, mayors and individual members of the Moscow State Duma were elected, whose posts had to be filled for various reasons.
Ella Pamfilowa, head of the Central Election Commission, does not want to know about electoral fraud.Photo: Sergei Fadeichev / imago images
The election was accompanied by massive allegations of fraud. Independent observers from the Golos group counted more than 1,500 manipulations and spoke of “demonstrative disregard for the law”. She reported exchanging pre-filled ballots for bribes and voting against those who were handed in on the spot.
Deputy Interior Minister Alexander Gorowoy said no violation could have affected the results. The head of the Central Election Commission, Ella Pamfilowa, wanted to see “practically no violations.”