United Russia wins regional elections

No surprises here in Moscow. United Russia won a landslide victory in just counted elections in Moscow and dozens of other regions. In what he had called “new democratic times,” Russian President Dmitry Medvedev seemed pleased and lost no time in letting regional governments know that United Russia would be playing an even greater role in both the legislative and executive branches of regional governments.

“United Russia’s victory in the regions proves its authority and right to form bodies of the executive branch in the regions,” Medvedev said at a meeting with senior United Russia officials.

United Russia’s stunning victory disappointed those who had hoped that Medvedev’s announcement in August that “new democratic times are beginning” would lead to some political competition. Medvedev also warned United Russia over the summer that its monopoly on power would not last forever.

But United Russia managed to not only keep its dominant position in the Moscow City Duma but expand it, according to the Central Elections Commission. The party, whose list was headed by Mayor Yury Luzhkov, got 66 percent of the vote, giving it 32 seats in the City Duma. The other three seats will go to the Communist Party, which garnered 13 percent and had four seats in the last Duma. The other four parties in the race, including Yabloko, which had two seats in the last Duma, failed to clear the 7 percent threshold.

Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov stated his regret that the Moscow City Duma, one of the most powerful in the country, would be represented by only two parties. 

Luzhkov has been pressured by the Kremlin to step aside as mayor and take a seat in the Duma instead. Refusing to be brushed aside, the mayor indicated that he had no plans to leave office until he decided it was time, saying “The time hasn’t come yet. When it comes, I will announce it myself without any reminders and questions from those who would like to see a less independent Moscow.”

Rival political party Yabloko reported numerous violations and said it would challenge the results.

“There aren’t any real election results for us to talk about,” said Lilia Shibanova, director of the independent election-monitoring group Golos, which also reported serious violations.