#6 - JRL 2007-22 - JRL Home
January 30, 2007.
Battling to Get Back on Ballot
By Nabi Abdullaev and Galina Stolyarova
With the exception of United Russia and A Just Russia, just about every political party that has tried to register for the parliamentary elections scheduled for March in 14 regions across the country have run into difficulties.
Pro-Kremlin parties United Russia and A Just Russia are on the ballot in all 14 regions. But opposition parties have been barred from races in a number of regions in what analysts call an attempt by local authorities to settle score with dissident groups and demonstrate their loyalty to the Kremlin.
"The Kremlin has no interest in all these scandals. The only explanation is that regional bosses are making a show of loyalty to Moscow," said Sergei Mikheyev, a regional analyst at the Center for Political Technologies.
The affected parties are hardly on the political fringe. The Communist Party was not allowed to register in the Tyumen region and the republic of Dagestan. The Union of Right Forces, or SPS, and Yabloko have also been stricken from the ballot in Dagestan.
St. Petersburg election officials refused to register Yabloko as well as the People's Will party and the United Socialist Party of Russia, which emerged from the breakup of the Rodina party.
Some 40 Yabloko activists rallied Monday on Red Square to protest the party's exclusion from the election for St. Petersburg's Legislative Assembly.
Election officials ruled that 12 percent of some 8,000 signatures submitted in support of Yabloko's application to register were invalid. The party collected some 40,000 signatures in all. Election law says no more than 10 percent of submitted signatures can be invalid.
Yabloko plans to appeal the ruling to the Central Elections Commission this week, and, if necessary, take its case all the way to the Supreme Court, Maxim Reznik, head of the party's St. Petersburg branch, said Monday.
Boris Vishnevsky, a senior member of Yabloko's organization in the northern capital, said Monday that he was convinced the ruling had been ordered by City Hall.
"I see the hand of Governor Valentina Matviyenko in all of this," Vishnevsky said. "She has clearly had enough of Yabloko questioning her controversial decisions. The governor has decided that it's time to block Yabloko's access to the only political forum in the city: the Legislative Assembly."
Yabloko irked City Hall recently by pushing for a citywide referendum on the proposed construction of a 396-meter-tall glass tower that would become Gazprom's new headquarters.
If Yabloko is not restored to the ballot, liberal voters will probably put their support behind SPS, Mikheyev said.
The decision by Dagestani officials to bar the Communists and SPS from the upcoming parliamentary election was based on similarly technical grounds. Under regional law, parties must field candidates in all 53 of Dagestan's districts in order to contest the election.
Last week, four SPS candidates suddenly withdrew from the race, as did three Communists, leaving the parties without candidates in several districts.
Dagestan's Supreme Court rejected appeals from both parties despite the fact that the candidates in question had agreed to re-enter the race.
"The election law in Dagestan is terrible. It allows the authorities to exclude a national party just because one or two of its candidates got cold feet," said Enver Kisriyev, a political analyst with the Center for Civilization and Regional Studies, part of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Gazeta.ru reported late Monday that Dagestani election officials had relented and would allow the Communists to contest the March election after the presidium of the regional Supreme Court reinstated the party's withdrawn candidates.
This report could not be confirmed late Monday.
The Communist Party has traditionally been a major power in Dagestan, winning more than 25 percent of seats in the regional legislature in 2003. If the party were barred, most of those seats would likely go to United Russia, Kisriyev said.
United Russia in Dagestan is backed by President Mukhu Aliyev.
In the Tyumen region, the Communist Party has filed a new party list in an attempt to get back on the ballot. The party was denied registration last week because its candidates had not fully disclosed their incomes and property.