Putin’s Soft Stealth Authoritarianism, 2003: The Results of the 2003 Russian State Duma Elections in St. Petersburg

by Gordon M. Hahn

The article below was originally published in early 2004 by the Moscow Carnegie Center. All of my articles written for Carnegie have been removed from their website and the Internet, so I republish them here. Original: Gordon M. Hahn, “The Results of the 2003 Russian State Duma Elections in St. Petersburg,” 2003 Duma Elections – St. Petersburg, (Moscow: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Moscow Center, 2 February 2004), www.carnegie.ru/en/pubs/media/69725.html.

THE RESULTS OF THE 2003 RUSSIAN STATE DUMA ELECTIONS IN ST. PETERSBURG

Gordon M. Hahn, Ph.D., Fulbright Visiting Professor, St. Petersburg State University hahn@hoover.stanford.edu

            St. Petersburg was destined to be a key weathervane in the 2003 State Duma elections. Petersburg is the second-largest subject of the federation by population. After Moscow it plays the key role in determining the party list vote’s outcome and contributes 8 deputies to the State Duma, more than any other region, again except for Moscow. Moreover, the city has been a stronghold of democratic politics and political parties, including Yabloko, the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS), and the Party for the Development of Entrepreneurship (PRP). In 2003, all eight districts had strong democratic candidates, each a present Duma deputy, though not in all cases an incumbent of the district in which he or she ran.

However, with the ‘election’ of the Kremlin’s candidate for the governorship in Petersburg, Valentina Matvienko, on the strength of the broad application of ‘administrative resources’, the stage was set for continuation of the stealth authoritarian counter-revolution that Matvienko’s victory launched against Petersburg’s democratic tradition (See Gordon M. Hahn, “Stealth Authoritarianism: Setting the Stage for the Federal Election Cycle in St. Petersburg,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Moscow Center, 2003 Duma Elections – St. Petersburg, 5 November 2003, www.carnegie.ru/en/pubs/media/68588.htm).

Thus, the confrontation between Petersburg’s democratic tradition and the stealth authoritarian counter-revolution defined the character and structure of the Petersburg contests. All of the single-mandate district races in St. Petersburg featured confrontations between democrats, in the main Yabloko candidates or Yabloko-backed candidates, and candidates supported to one degree or another by the Kremlin and Edinaya Rossiya. Regarding the single-mandate districts, Yabloko had 2 incumbents running in the 8 Petersburg district seat races this time around; one of these running in the district in which he was the incumbent. And another incumbent, the 206th district’s Yulii Rybakov, planned to enter Yabloko’s Duma faction. Another Yabloko candidate served as deputy in the district in which he was running in the 1993 V and 1995 VI Duma convocations. Yabloko had a strong candidate or allied candidate in 6 of the 8 districts; it had a candidate in 7. Edinaya Rossiya had at least one, and sometimes two candidates in each district, and there was often a third and even fourth candidate who could count on being the beneficiary of direct or indirect support from pro-Kremlin or Kremlin-tied forces. The KPRF played a limited role in these races, registering a few respectable finishes but no victories or even second place finishes. The LDPR played absolutely none, not even as a spoiler, and apparently did not even try. Moskovskii komsomolets (Oleg Gorbatov, “Kolybel’ patriotov,” 9 December 2003, p. 6) reported that LDPR headquarters withheld funding for its candidates in the city.

The two exceptions to the Yabloko-Edinaya Rossiya confrontation were the 209th and 213th districts, where, respectively, the SPS’s Irina Khakamada faced off against Duma speaker Genaddi Seleznev and PRP leader Oksana Dmitrieva (a former Yabloko member) was the clear leader weakly challenged by a both Yabloko and pro-Kremlin candidates. In all but one (the 213th) of six districts where a Yabloko or Yabloko-backed candidate ran, a strong argument can be made that the Yabloko-associated candidate was the favorite to win. In the district that its candidate was not the favorite, the favorite was a former Yabloko member Dmitrieva. In the two races where Yabloko did not have a candidate, the democratic Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) nominated two strong candidates, Grigorii Tomchin (207th) and Duma deputy chairwoman Irina Khakamada (209th). In all cases the race was one between two leaders: one from the democrats (Yabloko or SPS) and one backed by the Kremlin.

Overall, the counter-revolution continued, indeed, but it was not completed. In the 1999 elections to the State Duma, Yabloko and the SPS received 11.6% and 17.4%, respectively. This time around, each received a little more than 9%. In the single-mandate races the Petersburg vote ended in a rout of all the pro-democratic parties and candidates, except for Yabloko’s Sergei Popov (212th district) and Oksana Dmitrieva (213th district). Edinaya Rossiya took 4 of the 7 district races that were decided in this democratic stronghold. The election in one of the 8 districts was invalidated by the victory of the ‘against all candidates’ vote, which edged out Yedinaya Rossiya’s candidate by 2% of the vote.

There can be little doubt that federal administrative resources played a key role in the elections. A closer look at the single-mandate district races reveals, with exception of 2 of the 8 races, a curious pattern of surprise and/or close outcomes in favor of Yedinaya Rossiya candidates or otherwise Kremlin-backed candidates.

206th (Admiralty) District

            The prestigious 206th District’s had the largest field of candidates, 17, the most for any of Petersburg’s Duma seats. The large field contributed to extensive vote-splitting across the political spectrum, as stated in my preview of the Petersburg single-mandate races (See Gordon M. Hahn, “Previews of the 2003 St. Petersburg Single Mandate District Races for the Russian State Duma,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Moscow Center, 2003 Duma Elections – St. Petersburg, 4 December 2003, www.carnegie.ru/en/pubs/media/69176.htm.). The 206th was to be one of the more important indicators among the Petersburg races of the democrats’ capacity to overcome the Kremlin’s mounting assault on democratic elections. Most experts, including the author, expected the contest here to revolve around former dissident, leading democrat, and incumbent Yulii A. Rybakov, two pro-Kremlin candidates Vladimir I. Yudin and Vitalii A. Kalinin, and the ‘Rodina’ party’s candidate Yurii P. Savelev.

However, Edinaya Rossiya’s candidate, Andrei Aleksandrovich Benin emerged the victor with just over 17 percent of the vote, just a few thousand votes ahead of Yulii Rybakov’s near 17 percent. Although Benin was backed by local councils of veterans, an important sector of the traditionally electorally active pensioners, he was an unknown figure. He was apparently considered an outsider by candidates as well. In an interview in the SPS’s Petersburg monthly newspaper Pravoe delo with the party’s candidate in the district, Alexei Titov, he focused his attack on another Edinaya Rossiya-tied candidate, Sergei Andreev, charging him with using his ‘house committees’ as a political resource, rather than defending the interests of renters. Benin was never mentioned (See “Alekse Titov: ‘Ya ne khochu torgovat;syas peterburzhtsam,” Pravoe delo, No. 11, December 2003, p. 6). It is indeed hard to believe an unknown could defeat a well-known and popular Rybakov without some falsification of the vote, even while taking into account the power of administrative resources.

The intensity of the regime-opposition conflict here became even clear when on 31 October Rybakov was initially refused registration by the district election commission. The agent of this particular application of administrative resources not surprisingly was not only an opponent of Rybakov’s in the race and a member of the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly’s Edinaya Rossiya faction Sergei Yu. Andreev. He appealed to the election commission to have Rybakov’s registration as a candidate revoked. Three subsequent attempts by Andreev likewise failed. However, Andreev did manage, it seems, to blacken Rybakov’s reputation and promote his own name enough to finish a surprising third in the race with nearly 11% of the vote. Andreev’s 11% plus the near 4% for Vitalii Kalinin, the candidate of the Kremlin chekisty’s Narodnaya Partiya would have given Benin a much more easy victory. Thus, even Rybakov’s near victory here offers much less hope for democrats’ prospects than first appears. Although the democratic vote was subject to much less splitting, the SPS’s nomination of a candidate in the race, Aleksei Titov, who took 5% of the vote, hardly helped Rybakov or SPS-Yabloko relations.

‘Rodina’ Party candidate Yurii Savelev’s better than 10% of the vote and fourth place finish is no surprise. The extent to which this is slightly better than most communists’ performance in the city and this district and was the result of some help from pro-Kremlin administrative resources, Savelev’s take probably also cut off a percent point or two from Benin’s take. Benin’s 17%, Andreev’s 11%, Kalinin’s 4 %, and 1-2% from Savelev would give Benin a total between Edinaya Rossiya’s party list vote of 30% in the city and 36% countrywide. The anti-oligarch Yurii Yudin’s disappointing sixth-place finish with just over 4% of the vote is explained by a couple of factors. He received no open backing from any party, and his verbal attack on Yedinaya Rossiya and its leader Boris Gryzlov days before the election likely negated any points he might have accrued from his anti-oligarch stance. Savalev likely also co-opted some of the anti-oligarch vote. Yudin’s attack also suggests his ties to the Petersburg chekisty, though Yudin is generally an unpredictable and quirky force not necessarily best understood on the basis of rational political calculations.

Mikhail Zlydnikov, nominated by the “speakers’ bloc” – the two-party electoral bloc of Seleznev’s Party of Rebirth of Russia and Petersburger Mironov’s Party of Life, reached 1.4% equal to the bloc’s nationwide vote, but significantly less than its 3.4% take in the city, from which Mironov and his Party of Life hail. The latter party is the federal offspring of the Petersburg party ‘Petersburg’s Will’ (Volya Petersburga) founded by Mironov when he was acting chairman of the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly.

 In sum, the message of the 206th district race is despite a high degree of split voting among pro-Kremlin centrist forces, the incumbent democrat Rybakov was unable to hold his seat; a major victory for the Kremlin, administrative resources, and stealth authoritarianism in Russia.

207th (Eastern) District

The message was just a little different in the 207th district. This race was thrown wide open when incumbent Irina Khakamada, co-chair of the SPS party and State Duma Deputy Chair, decided to run in the 209th district instead. The campaign’s front-runners became Petersburg SPS leader Grigorii A. Tomchin and three-time Olympic and ten-time world figure-skating champion and Edinaya Rossiya’s candidate Irina K. Rodnina. However, the winner turned out to be ‘against all’, taking 24% of the vote, which will nullify the vote and require a re-vote for this district seat. Edinaya Rossiya’s Rodnina garnered over 21%, and would have been the winner if not for the ‘against all’ vote. Rodnina was the beneficiary of considerable administrative resources. She appeared on numerous television programs, political and entertainment, run by allies of Kremlin-Loyal Smolny. The SPS’s Tomchin proved unable to convert Khakamada’s support in the district into is own, taking 17% of the vote for a second place finish. The KPRF’s Yurii Gatchin finished third with just over 8%, the communists’ best showing in the city.

            A potential force in the race was Aleksandr Morozov. He has good ties to both the city and the district. Although his campaign literature described him as an independent candidate, he is co-chair of the Petersburg branch of the Pensioners’ Party and enjoyed the official backing of city’s ‘Volya Peterburga’ party. He finished in second-place to Irina Khakamada in the 207th in the 1999 Duma race and is Petersburg Legislative Assembly deputy of the last two convocations from the 21st district which is located in the 207th Duma seat district. However, Morozov’s candidacy was repealed by the city election commission for false reporting on his registration materials about his higher education on the basis of a complaint filed by Rodnina’s campaign. This may have been a response to Morozov’s vociferous complaints about the application of administrative resources in favor Rodnina.

Although the Petersburg predecessor and nucleus of Mironov’s Party of Life (Partiya Zhizni), Volya Peterburga, supported Morozov, the electoral bloc partner of the Party of Life, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev’s Party of the Rebirth of Russia backed a different candidate, October Railroad official Valentin N. Nikol’skii. He finished fourth with nearly 8 percent of the vote, perhaps benefiting from Morozov’s withdrawal.

The invalidation of the of the 207th district vote because of the leading position of ‘against all’, could allow Khakamada, Yulii Rybakov, or one of the Yabloko’s well-known single-mandate district losers like Igor Artemev to make a quick comeback and return to the Duma.

208th (Western) District

            The main contest in the 208th district contest was again one between a democrat and pro-Kremlin centrist: Yabloko’s Igor Yu. Artemev and incumbent deputy from the district, Edinaya Rossiya candidate Valentina N. Ivanova, respectively. Ivanova won, but just barely, taking 32% of the vote. Artemev took 30% of the vote. This was a severe blow for Yabloko for several reasons. Artemev was an incumbent Duma deputy, though not from the district seat. He was elected on the party’s 1999 party list, but this time around Yabloko decided to deploy one of its ‘heavyweights’ to challenge an important pro-Kremlin incumbent. More importantly, Artemev is a deputy chairman of Yabloko’s countrywide organization and a long-time figure in Petersburg. His 30% take in the race far outdistanced Yabloko’s in the party list race in the city, and stands him in good stead on the Petersburg political stage. The PRP’s candidate Igor N. Onishchenko, who won just over 2% of the vote, could have taken crucial votes away from Artemev, who finished a mere 1.6% behind Ivanova.

Ivanova’s defeat of a heavyweight democrat like Artemev marked another major victory for Edinaya Rossiya and the considerable administrative resources marshaled in her support. (See Hahn, “Previews of the 2003 St. Petersburg Single Mandate District Races for the Russian State Duma,” www.carnegie.ru/en/pubs/media/69176.htm). As predicted in Vladimir I. Fyodorov, the KPRF Petersburg GorKom’s Second Secretary, finished in third place with 10%. (Hahn, “Previews of the 2003 St. Petersburg Single Mandate District Races for the Russian State Duma,” www.carnegie.ru/en/pubs/media/69176.htm).

209th (Northern) District

This district’s race had the fewest number of candidates — 8 — in Petersburg, except for the 213th district’s 6 candidates. This seat was left vacant after the murder of leading democrat Galina Starovoitova in 1999. It was won in the 1999 Duma election by Sergei Stepashin, who ran with the backing of Yabloko. However, his appointment as Chairman of the Russian Auditing Chamber and a 2000 by-election that yielded to low a turnout to validate the vote left this seat empty for the entire VII convocation of the Duma.

The 2003 race was a real battle – one with countrywide political implications — between State Duma Chairman Gennadi N. Seleznev and State Duma Deputy Chairwoman Irina M. Khakamada. Seleznev’s easy victory was the result of two factors. First, he was surely the beneficiary of administrative support from pro-Kremlin forces. Furthermore, his Rebirth of Russia Party’s electoral alliance with the Party of Life, nationwide successor to the city’s ‘Peterburg’s Will’ party headed by Putin ally and Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov afforded him further administrative connections and an organizational support base in the city. The two-party bloc’s advertisements plastered all over the city, not just in the 209th district, gave him a high visibility, perhaps higher than any other candidate in Petersburg’s single-mandate districts. Thus, he won by more than a 2-to-1 margin, garnering over 47% of the vote to Khakamada’s less than 21% – the second most impressive victory among the St. Petersburg single-mandate district races.

Although Seleznev’s victory was not much of a surprise, the margin of his victory was. Since Khakamada held the No. 2 slot on the SPS’s federal party list, she had considerable visibility in the city, through national television debates and advertisements. It is however unclear how much her debate appearances were a plus. It was also unclear how motivated she was to fight the political battle required to win in the district, given the possibility — which the democrats seemed to assume was a likelihood – that the SPS would pass the 5% barrier in the party list voting and enter the Duma. She was neither a native of Petersburg, nor did her then Duma seat come from the 209th district. She was elected in Petersburg’s 207th in 1999 (see above). Her lackadaisical effort in the city produced the corresponding result. The fact that she may have suffered from vote-splitting due to the presence of three other women in the race never emerged as a factor given Seleznev’s large margin of victory. An important factor, again, was administrative resources. Khakamada held a news conference at ABN news agency along with Yabloko’s candidate in the 210th district Anatolii Golov to complain about an apparent black listing against her campaign forbidding it to post campaign ads around the city (See Vladimir Kovalev, “Liberal Candidates Suffer ‘Administrative Resources,” St. Petersburg Times, December 2, 2003). Subsequently, on election day, the was a major power outage in the district. Although this did not disrupt voting, it raised a question whether the outage was the result of foul play to discredit Khakamada, whose party colleagues Anatolii Chubais and Andrei Likhachev head the federal electric power monopoly YeES and its Petersburg affiliate LenEnergo, respectively. The cause of the outage is currently being inspected.

Candidate Natalya Petukhova, who could have been a real force, pulled out of the race. In the 2000 by-election for the empty district seat, she won 26.13 percent of the vote finishing in second place behind. In the 2001 by election for the still empty seat (the 2000 by-election’s results were nullified because of low turnout), Petukova won 25 percent finishing in third. It is unclear why Edinaya Rossiya bothered to put up a candidate in this race; Olympic champion Yelena V. Tabakova’s victory here would have really raised eyebrows regarding the honesty of the vote-counting given the strength of the Selznev and Khakamada candidacies. She brought the party of power proper one of its poorest performances in the city, winning only 7% of the vote, but Seleznev is already a member of the extended party of power, so the result is another victory for pro-Kremlin forces.

210th (Northwestern) District

The race for this seat also was thrown wide open by the decision of its incumbent, statist businessman Konstantin Sevenard, to run for the Duma on a party list. Both democratic parties Yabloko and SPS put forward candidates, Anatolii G. Golov and Sergei V. Gulyaev, respectively; something they avoided doing in most other Petersburg single-mandate districts. As a result, Andrei Vladimirovich Shevelyov, emerged victorious with 19% of the vote. As a politician Shevelyov was a player unknown to the majority of the district’s residents. He had some limited notoriety as head of the Suvorov Military Academy, which may have provided him with some administrative resources. Shevelyov had a more outstanding political feature; he was nominated by Edinaya Rossiya. This surely made him the beneficiary of even more attendant administrative resources. At the press conference with Khakamada noted above, Golov reported that his campaign experienced a similar lock out from official organizations and premises to that experienced by the Khakamada campaign in the 209th district (see above).

The democrats’ defeat in this district also resulted in part from SPS’s refusal to support Yabloko’s much more promising candidate. Golov was the district’s Duma deputy in the V and VI convocations. In 1999 he finished a close second behind ‘against all’ and in the repeat election finished second behind Sevenard. Moreover, the SPS’s Gulyaev, who finished fourth with 11%, was hardly a paragon of democratic virtues. He began his career in journalism working for the notorious national-patriotic propagandist Aleksandr Nevzorov and later for the state news agency ITAR-TASS. His other credentials include calls for the extradition of all Caucasians from the city. He was elected a deputy in the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly in December 2002 on the joint ‘SPS + Yabloko’ list with the support of local SPS leader Grigorii Tomchin and is a member of the SPS faction there. In that race, he defeated rather handily the incumbent Anatolii N. Krivenchenko. Krivenchenko, a lawyer and St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly deputy, was nominated by ‘Rodina’ in the Duma race and this time outdistanced Gulyaev with 15% and a second place finish.

Igor V. Morozov, initiator of the ‘Yabloko Without Yavlinskii’ movement, hardly helped Golov’s cause, taking 2% of the vote, much of which likely came from disenchanted Yabloko supporters. This was the second of two Petersburg single-mandate district races (the other the 206th district) in which the failure of democrats to back a single candidate assisted the Kremlin in its successful bid to seat a relative unknown in the Duma under the Edinaya Rossiya flag.

211th (Central) District

            Initially, this race appeared to be like those of several others: a contest between a leading democrat, district incumbent and long-time Yabloko faction member in the State Duma Pyotr B. Shelishch, and a representative of the ‘party of power’, Edinaya Rossiya faction deputy in Petersburg’s Legislative Assembly, Nikita G. Ananov. The district’s candidates included three with ties to the party of power: two tied to Edinaya Rossiya and one to Governor Matvienko. Shelishch has had a long and strong position in the district for a decade. Shelishch has been elected the Duma deputy from the 211th district in all three post-Soviet Russian Duma elections in 1993, 1995, and 1999. Shelishch’s withdrawal from the Petersburg gubernatorial race and his eventual support Kremlin candidate Matvienko (rather than that of Yabloko’s candidate, Petersburg Legislative Assembly Yabloko faction chairman Mikhail Amosov) in return for her adoption of several of his gubernatorial campaign’s policy proposals subsumed under a so-called Social Contract (Obshchestvennyi dogovor) opened up the possibility of cooperation between pro-Smolny/pro-Kremlin forces and Shelishch. Not only was Shelishch be left alone by Smolny during the 211th district race, but he eventually received Edinaya Rossiya’s endorsement and was featured in the party’s Petersburg pamphlets as one of Edinaya Rossiya’s candidates. The last issue of the Edinaya Rossiya Petersburg organization’s newspaper, Vestnik Edinoi Rossii v Sankt-Peterburge, was devoted almost entirely to declarations of the party’s support of Shelishch. As predicted in my previews of the Petersburg races for Carnegie, Shelishch emerged the easy victor in this race, taking just under 30% of the vote and more than doubling the take of any other candidate, except for ‘against all.’ The high ‘against all’ vote may have been the result of some defections from Shelishch’s electorate in response to his shift toward the party of power. After his victory, Shelishch stated he might join the Edinaya Rossiya faction in the Duma, yet another blow against democratic Petersburg. Many had hoped that Shelsishch was using the party of power to get elected and would then join a Yabloko or SPS faction. With the amputation of the right-wing in the Duma, he could still have opted to join a united democratic group of deputies, but this now appears unlikely.

            Before the Shelishch-Yedinaya Rossiya rapprochment, Nikita Ananov appeared likely to be the beneficiary of significant administrative largesse, and this would have allowed him to challenge Shelishch. Ananov has close ties to the city and district as well. He was born in Leningrad in 1954 and graduated the prestigious Mathematical-Mechanical Faculty of Leningrad State University, where he received a doctorate in 1979. In the 1980s he worked at various mechanical engineering enterprises and institutes in the city. In the early 1990s he was head of the scientific-production association ‘Kvartz’ and headed the association of conservatives-production factories. He was elected to all three convocations of the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly in 1994, 1998, and 2002. The Petersburg Legislative Assembly seat’s district (46th) in which he has been elected is in the 211th Duma single-mandate seat’s district. There, he heads the local Petersburg Pensioners’ Union with 5-10 thousand members, the initial core of a potentially strong Ananov electorate. Ananov also was a member of the Matvienko campaign’s drafting committee, set up to prepare a governing strategy for Matvienko’s incoming administration. Unfortunately for Ananov, the Kremlin’s preferences take precedence over any divergent ones Smolny might have had, and Shelishch emerged as Edinaya Rossiya’s candidate. Ananov garnered second place with nearly 14% of the vote. It may be that the Petersburg party organization, familiar with Shelishch’s popularity prevailed upon both the Kremlin and Smolny to support the inevitable winner, who was able to prevail despite considerable vote-splitting among three Edinaya Rossiya tried candidates. It is also possible that Moscow and Smolny never came to terms over who to support, producing the split vote.

The third candidate tied to the party of power was former Duma deputy Valerii V. Papshev. He appeared to have something approaching a real, though limited campaign early on, one which faded in the two weeks before the balloting. His campaign materials highlighted his “active social work in the party Edinaya Rossiya” and life’s “service to the Fatherland” and high patriotism.” He is one of the founders of the movement ‘Siloviki Rossii –za Prezidenta V.V. Putina!’ His work in Edinaya Rossiya is supplemented by his work in the ‘Dialog’ centers created by pro-Kremlin and anti-Yakovlev forces and the Northwest Federal District during the election campaign for the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly in December 2002. The Northwest FO supposedly established public centers for citizens to which to bring complaints, requests and appeals. The ‘Dialog’ centers were clearly an effort to mobilize voters in favor of Kremlin candidates. Papshev won 6% of the vote.

            The indicted and imprisoned Yurii Shutov finished third with nearly 8% of the vote, much of which was surely bought with gifts of vodka and other goodies. Aleksandr Belyaev, the last chairman of the communist era Leningrad Soviet and who has a residual electorate, withdrew from the race in favor of Andrei N. Sharonov, whose campaign suddenly took off during the last week of the campaign. His posters could suddenly be seen all over the Petrograd district. He took a respectable 5.5% of the vote.

      In sum, this district race underscores a degree of disorganization and lack of discipline and unity within the Kremlin and Edinaya Rossiya as well as its regardless still considerable power advantage. Whether by cooptation or administrative resources, it usually ends up on the winning side of the uneven playing field it and its backers have constructed.

212th (Southwestern) District

            As predicted, the incumbent, Yabloko’s Sergei A. Popov, prevailed in the 212th district, taking just over 25% of the vote, defeating the Edinaya Rossiya’s candidate, Viktor Yevtukhov, who finished a distant second with just under 21%. Although Yevtukhov had little chance against Popov, who is popular and a productive legislator for the district, he was hampered by vote-splitting among pro-Kremlin forces. Popov was elected to the State Duma in the 212th in both 1995 and 1999. Along with St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly ‘Yabloko’ faction chairman Mikhail Amosov, he has been at the forefront of defending St. Petersburg’s rights vis-à-vis the federal Center. They have been highly critical of the federal government, in particular the Finance Ministry, for failing to fulfill its obligations to the city under the federal budget law. Popov. a lawyer, has won a series of court cases against federal instances for failing to live up to its budget responsibilities vis-à-vis the northern capitol.

As predicted, Popov was aided in his quest to remain in the Duma by likely split-voting among the pro-Kremlin centrist forces. The pro-Kremlin centrist forces divided among Yevtukhov, Aleksandr R. Salaev, and early on Inga S. Biryukova. Yevtukhov, once coordinator of the pro-Kremlin ‘Yedinstvo’ (Unity) faction in the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly and now deputy coordinator of the seven-member ‘Party of Life’ faction in the assembly, was nominated to run in the 212th Duma seat district by the centrist-left electoral “speakers’ bloc” made up of the moderate communist Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev’s Party of Rebirth of Russia and centrist Federation Council speaker Sergei Mironov’s Party of Life. Thus, Yevtukhov in fact suffered from competition from both leftist and centrist forces. The main centrist splitter was Aleksandr Salaev, an assistant of the leader of the Edinaya Rossiya faction in the State Duma Vladimir Pekhtin! Salaev was also a member of the political council of Edinaya Rossiya’s Petersburg organization, the political council of which resolved on 27 October to support Salaev’s campaign. Salaev won 11.5% of the vote, enough to have secured Yevtukhov victory over Popov. This race points again to an astounding element of the Yedinaya Rossiya phenomenon. Despite considerable infighting and lack of coordination, the party was still able to take half the district races in fundamentally democratic Petersburg. What would it have been able to accomplish with tighter discipline in combination with its enormous administrative resources?

Inga Biryukova, a senior teacher at the St. Petersburg State University’s department of political psychology, was director of the social foundation ‘Narodnyi Kontrol’ (NK or People’s Monitoring). NK appeared suddenly on Petersburg’s political stage during the gubernatorial election this past autumn. It disappeared as suddenly as it appeared, but only after it had used its public reputation to endorse the Kremlin’s candidate Matvienko. It posed as a fighter against bureaucracy and the people’s monitor of the election campaign and established a good working relationship with liberal candidates Mikhail Amosov, the Yabloko Party’s candidate, and Pyotr Shchelish, but the NK’s main purpose was to back Matvienko’s program and candidacy. A 15 August NK statement in fact endorsed Matvienko for governor. Whether Biryukov’s candidacy was evidence of a Smolny-Kremlin competition or simple personal ambition is hard to tell, but it as withdrawn apparently in an attempt to shore up Yevtukhov.

The ‘Rodina’ party supported Vadim Voitanovskii, a successful businessman and a deputy in the Saint Petersburg Legislative Assembly and its seven-member ‘Sport Russia’ (Sportivnaya Rossiya) faction headed by Denis Volchek, an ‘authoritative’ businessman in the city. Rodina’s support helped Voitanovskii to win a considerable number of left-centrist votes, garnering 11.6% of the ballots, which means he took votes away from Yevtukhov as well as the KPRF’s candidate, Svyatoslav M. Sokol (the KPRF’s Leningrad ObKom Second Secretary and KPRF TsK member).

Voitanovskii’s third-place finish compared to Sokol’s fifth-place finish and 6.4% of the both, barely half of Voitanovskii’s vote, was one of many blows dealt by Rodina against the KPRF across the country on December 7. Sokol has been a Duma deputy in both the VI and VII convocations and currently heads the Duma Committee for Industry, Construction, and Scientific Technology. A central plank in his electoral platform is the revival of industry in Petersburg. Indeed, Sokol had a strong record of protecting the city’s interests of industrial enterprises; a central plank of Rodina. It seems that the vote for Voitanovskii rather than Sokol was based on issues other than the candidates’ policy positions and likely had more to do with the KPRF’s declining prestige among its own electorate. In this sense, it is also another strong blow against Zyuganov’s leadership of the party. Indeed, Sokol took over the KPRF Petersburg GorKom first secretaryship in February of this year backed by the KPRF’s chairman Gennadii Zyuganov.

Another party that failed in this district was former Yabloko member Oksana Dmitrieva’s democratic pro-small and medium-sized business party, the PRP. It nominated and put considerable money and prestige behind A.V. Dudevich, Dmitrieva’s closest political associate. He successfully defended his candidate’s dissertation under her tutelage and has been her an assistant and advisor. He received a disappointing 3.5% of the vote; another poor showing for a democratic candidate.

213th (Southern) District

            Dmitrieva herself salvaged something for her party and the democratic forces in the city with her resounding victory, taking 54% of the vote. Dmitrieva’s position in the city and the district probably explains why it has the fewest candidates of any Petersburg single-mandate district – 6. Few wanted to go against the well-entrenched incumbent. Dmitrieva has been a Duma deputy in all its post-Soviet convocations. She was born in the city and was a leading member of Yabloko’s Petersburg organization in the city until she left the party in 1998 to form her own party. In 1999 she was elected a Duma deputy from the 213th district, and she was elected to the two previous convocations on the Yabloko party’s federal list. Thus, hers was the highest take of any single-mandate district victor in Petersburg, and she was the only candidate to win a majority, not just a plurality of the vote.

This was achieved despite the fact that Yabloko put up a strong challenger in Natalya L. Yevdokimova, who pointed up Dmitrieva’s only weakness. Whereas Dmirieva was always close to the Yakovlev camp, being a close friend of the former governor’s wife, Yevdokimova has always been in strong opposition to Yakovlev. Yevdokimova also had the potential to take some of the ‘feminist’ vote away from Dmitrieva. In the end, none of these scenarios panned out. Yevdokimova garnered just short of 9% of the vote.

Despite Yevdokimova’s presence as a second democrat in the race, the district still shaped up basically as another democrat versus party of power contest. Perhaps because of the democratic incumbent’s strong position, the pro-Kremlin forces managed to put forward one candidate in this district: member of the Edinaya Rossiya faction in the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly, Oleg Ye. Sergeev. Sergeev, Like Dmitrieva and Yevdokimova, has a long record in the city’s and district’s politics. Another political son of perestroika, he was nominated in 1990 by the City Children’s Diagnostic Center located in the district to run for city deputy. He has been city deputy since 1994 and was a candidate of the ‘Yurii Boldyrev bloc’, giving Sergeev a Yabloko association too. His assembly district seat (50th) is located in the 213th Duma seat district. Sergeev supported Matvienko for governor as well and therefore could expect support in return from Smolny. Sergeev’s former ties to Boldyrev seemingly positioned him to contend for some of the democratic electorate as well. This was not to be; he produced one of the worst results for a candidate from the party of power: a mere 15% of the vote.

THE USE OF ADMINISTRATIVE RESOURCES IN THE ST. PETERSBURG CAMPAIGNS

Where the region’s chief executive is a Edinaya Rossiya member, administrative resources are delivered to produce the desired result. In Tatarstan, President Mintimer Shaimiev, fourth on the party’s federal list and a leader of its Political Council, delivered all four seats for Edinaya Rossiya. In Petersburg, Smolny was even able, by hook or crook, to secure a State Duma seat for two unknown, novice candidates: the 206th district’s Andrei Benin and the 210th district’s Andrei Shevelyov. This is testimony to the power of administrative resources and perhaps some falsification. It is clear that Smolny marshaled all such resources that it could.

According to information I was able to gather in Petersburg, about ten days before the vote Smolny summoned all the administration heads of Petersburg’s raions and warned them that if they did not produce a high vote for Edinaya Rossiya their jobs would be on the line. This strong-arm method was exercised down the administrative chain of command. Administrative heads told department and committee heads to rally votes for Edinaya Rossiya or else. They in turn pressured the heads of enterprises, universities, schools, and other institutions dependent on budgetary funding to produce votes for the party. Thus, school principals were warned that if they did not secure the votes of their students’ parents, repairs to the schools physical plant would not be funded.

Here is one small, but highly illustrative example of how in other ways they managed the election to give an advantage to the party of power. The author visited a voting station on Bolshaya Pushkarskaya Street on the Petrograd Side of the city. In violation of federal election law, over the street directly in front of the polling station’s entrance hung a large Edinaya Rossiya banner; the only party so advertised on election day. In the single-mandate district races Smolny’s resources, especially its control over the raion administrations and (with Moscow’s help) the district electoral commissions, threatened a counter-revolution in the single-mandate districts as well. Local media devoted a heavy preponderance of its coverage to Edinaya Rossiya, its single district candidates, and other Kremlin-backed parties (the ‘Rodina’ Party and the speakers’ bloc of Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov’s Party of Life and State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznov’s Rebirth of Russia Party) and candidates. Such tactics, implemented in larger ways and on abroad scale, with perhaps some direct falsification of the votes, brought the predictable results in the northern capitol; one that reflected the nationwide single-mandate and party list elections.

What are some other reported examples of the use of administrative resource in Petersburg’s single-mandate district races? Yabloko’s candidate in the 20th district Anatolii Golov was not allowed to hang his campaign posters “in any in any organizations with budgetary financing.” His campaign issued a report claiming that authorities had ordered such organization “not to accept advertisements except those from candidates running with the United Russia party.” One specific example was the refusal by Primorsky District school No. 41 located at 1/3 Ulitsa Marshala Novikova to permit the Golov campaign to place campaign materials there on an order from the Primorskyi District’s Education Ministry Department to her and other school directors only allow such campaigning for Yedinaya Rossiya’s candidate Shevelyov.

Another example likely was the disproportionate vote by the cadets of the city’s Military-Space Academy: 55% for Edinaya Rossiya and less than 1% each for Yabloko and SPS. The academy has been an administrative resource in more than one election in St. Petersburg. In a second mid-term election to the 41st district seat in the Petersburg Legislative Assembly, one first nullified because of electoral violations committed by the winner, Yurii Rydnik, one of his top challengers in the nullified race, Colonel Vyacheslav Makarov made full use of administrative resources at the Mozhaisk Military-Space Academy. As a department head at the academy, Makarov mobilized the cadets to secure 28.64 percent of the vote barely defeating his main challenger, Natal’ia Garkavenko, by some 200 votes. His margin of victory was won at four voting precincts, where Makarov sent cadets from his school to go vote at the polls (“3 kandidata v deputaty ZS Peterburga podali v sud na Vyacheslava Makarova” and Nikolai Donskov, “41-I v blockade,” Novaya gazeta v Peterburge, No. 72, 29 September – 1 October 2003, p. 12). According to the Petersburg daily Smena, the cadets of Makarov’s Mozhaisk Military-Space Academy virtually occupied the polling precinct. One cadet was held by police for attempting to buy votes. In violation of the law, they also were openly instructed by their officers at the precinct on how and for whom to vote. It was also reported that hundreds of cadets were brought in from outside Petersburg to cast ballots in the assembly seat vote (Ivan Redkov, “Okkupatsiya 41-go,” Smena, 30 September 2003, p. 6).

CONCLUSION

As Oksana Dmitrieva succinctly put it after the overall results were in, “the authorities won the Duma elections.” In St. Petersburg’s single-mandate districts, the final score was pro-Kremlin forces – 5, democratic forces – 2, and one draw. Edinaya Rossiya took 4 of the 8 district races in this democratic stronghold: Benin in the 206th, Ivanova – 208th, Shevelev- 210th, and Shelishch in 211th.  In a fifth race, the 207th, there was a draw. Edinaya Rossiya’s Rodnina would have won but for being outvoted by ‘against all’ – a message to the Kremlin I will discuss below. In a sixth, the 209th, Seleznev won backed by Smolny and the Kremlin behind-the-scenes and openly by the Kremlin associated party, the Party of Life, headed by Putin-ally and Federation Council Chairman Mironov and which blocked in the election with Seleznev’s Rebirth of Russia Party. This is not unusual, rather it is typical under the new stealth authoritarian regime.

Local Implications

The defeat of democratic forces in St. Petersburg could have important implications for Petersburg’s politics. First, it will put a definitive end to the relative comity between pro-Kremlin centrist forces in the Legislative Assembly, especially the Edinaya Rossiya faction, and the Yabloko and SPS factions. Second, the support of one Edinaya Rossiya-tied candidate over another, as occurred in several of the single-mandate districts, is likely to aggravate divisions within the party and its faction. Third, it could complicate Smolny’s relations with the Legislative Assembly and certainly with its Yabloko and SPS factions. The former could move toward open more aggressive opposition. In this regard, Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii’s pre-election visit with Matvienko and his request that professionals in Yabloko be given middle-level, technocratic posts in Smolny could look rather awkward and become a dead letter. Regarding the SPS, Mikhail Brodskii’s appointment as Matvienko’s representative in the Legislative Assembly may become inconvenient for either of the parties.  

National Implications

            However, the authorities could be developing a real legitimacy problem in the northern capitol. As with the December 2002 St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly elections and this past fall’s gubernatorial elections, Petersburgers expressed high level of apathy and disenchantment. These were manifested in low turn outs and high ‘against all’ votes, respectively. This trend continued in the Duma elections. The exception was the ‘against all’ voting on the party list, which was not so high — 3.8% — compared to the federal district ‘against all’ vote of 4.7%. Although turn out in Petersburg saw a rise from the 29% turnout for the December 2002 St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly and fall 2003 gubernatorial elections, it marked a sharp decline from 1999’s Duma vote: 43.8% as compared to 54%. The ‘against all’ vote in the single-mandate district races was unusually high. It reached over 10% or above in each district, except for one, which fell just short of 10%:  206th – nearly 14%, 207th – nearly 24%, 208th – nearly 11%, 209th – nearly 11%, nearly 14%, 211th  – nearly 17%, 212th – nearly 10%, and 213th – nearly 11%. The 207th district’s high ‘against all’ vote (24%) was high enough to outpace the Yedinaya Rossiya’s candidate Irina Rodnina and therefore nullify the election. The 207th was one of only four cases nationwide in which the results were nullified by a ‘victory’ for ‘against all.’

The high ‘against all’ vote and a party list vote for Yabloko and the SPS that more than doubled their percentage votes nationwide testify to a residue of democratic resistance in the city against the stealth authoritarian diktat from Moscow. In this sense, St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly Deputy Speaker Yurii Gladkov was quite right; with these elections “St. Petersburg became farther from Russia.” One reason for the democratic parties’ poor performance in Petersburg’s federal district (party list) vote was demographic. Young and middle class candidates, especially the better-off half of the Petersburg middle class, was more likely not to vote. This left the lower middle class and poor to dominate the turnout, which historically has been to the benefit of the communists and nationalists: the KPRF, LDPR, and Rodina. Moreover, the city’s lower middle class is inclined to support democratic socialist views. [See T.Z. Protasenko, “kto opredelil rezul’taty vyborov v Zakondatel’noe sobranie Sankt-Peterburga v dekabrye 2002g.?” in K. K. Khudoloei, ed., Sankt-Peterburg mezhdu vyborami v Zakonodatel’noe sobranie i gosudarstvennuyu dumu (Sankt-Peterburg: Sankt-Petersburgskii Gosudarstvennii Universitet, 2003), pp. 70-83.] This explains Rodina’s good performance in democratic Petersburg.  

The high ‘against all’ vote in the single-mandate districts and the relatively low turnout raise the issue of the stealth authoritarian regime’s illegitimacy in Petersburg. Moreover, in the event of an economic downturn or political crisis, apathy and disenchantment can easily be transformed into outrage, protest, and even rebellion. Petersburg could become a center of democratic opposition to the stealth authoritarian regime as it consolidates its hold on the Russian state.

If there is to be a democratic revival in Russia, it will require a larger more united democratic party of opposition than has existed heretofore. Yabloko’s Petersburg organization has been at some odds with the party’s Moscow leadership and Grigorii Yavlinskii over the issue of uniting with the SPS. Yabloko faction member in the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly and failed candidate in the 213th district race Natal’ya Yevdokimova expressed the mood among Yabloko’s Petersburgers after the elections: “There was the proposal of the rightist forces to unite. Yavlinskii did not accept it, and as a result neither one nor the other party is to be in the Duma.” The defeat of both parties in the 2003 Duma elections should give some impetus to those who back such a merger. To the extent that Yabloko’s Petersburg organization can take credit for having warned the party of the dangers of splitting the democratic vote in conditions of mounting stealth authoritarianism and massive use of administrative resources, it will be at the forefront of any move to unite democratic forces. Thus, if there is to be a democratic revival in Russia in the coming years, St. Petersburg is a region to watch.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

About the Author – Gordon M. Hahn, Ph.D., is an analyst for Geostrategic Forecasting Corporation (Chicago, Ill.), http://www.geostrategicforecasting.com; member of the Executive Advisory Board at the American Institute of Geostrategy (AIGEO) (Los Angeles, Calif.), http://www.aigeo.org; and a senior researcher at the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group in San Jose, California.

Dr. Hahn is the author of the forthcoming book from McFarland Publishers Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West, and the “New Cold War”. Previously, he has authored three well-received books: The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland Publishers, 2014), Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007), and Russia’s Revolution From Above: Reform, Transition and Revolution in the Fall of the Soviet Communist Regime, 1985-2000 (Transaction Publishers, 2002). He also has published numerous think tank reports, academic articles, analyses, and commentaries in both English and Russian language media.

Dr. Hahn also has taught at Boston, American, Stanford, San Jose State, and San Francisco State Universities and as a Fulbright Scholar at Saint Petersburg State University, Russia and has been a senior associate and visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Kennan Institute in Washington DC, and the Hoover Institution. Dr Hahn has also been a Contributir to Russia-Direct (www.russia-direct.com) and an analyst and consultant for Russia – Other Points of View (San Mateo, California), www.russiaotherpointsofview.com.

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About Gordon M. Hahn