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2006-10-04 12:44:00
Embassy Moscow
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DE RUEHMO #1137/01 2771244
P 041244Z OCT 06
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 MOSCOW 011137 




E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/02/2016

Classified By: POL M/C Alice G. Wells. Reasons: 1.4 (b) and (d).


C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 MOSCOW 011137




E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/02/2016

Classified By: POL M/C Alice G. Wells. Reasons: 1.4 (b) and (d).


1. (C) A September 28 - 29 visit to Chuvashiya in the run-up
to the October 8 State Council elections found:

-- five of the Republic's twenty-two parties on the ballot,
with a sixth --the Party of Pensioners-- denied registration,
and joining the Party of Life in supporting Rodina's quest to
cross the 7 percent threshold;

-- United Russia well ahead of its competitors, with party
members predicting it will capture more than 50 percent of
the votes, and others alleging that only fraud will make that

-- evidence of pressure placed on "Patriots of Russia"
candidates to withdraw from races and allegations of a
Watergate-like campaign headquarters break-in;

-- the media deck stacked in favor of United Russia;

-- the Republic apparently awash in money from the
Stabilization Fund for building roads, reforming education,
improving healthcare, and making natural gas available to all
Chuvashiya residents;

-- and awash with emissaries from Moscow reminding voters
that it is United Russia that has made those improvements
possible. End summary.

Framework for the Elections

2. (U) The Republic of Chuvashiya will stage elections to its
State Council on October 8. With this election, the size of
the Council will be reduced from 73 to 44 members and, for
the first time in Chuvashiya, twenty-two seats will be filled
by candidates running on party lists, and twenty-two deputies
will be chosen from single-mandate lists. Because the date
of Chuvashiya's election was fixed before the adoption, in
summer 2006, of amendments to the Federal law on "The Basic
Guarantees of Electoral Rights and Rights of Citizens of the
Russian Federation to Participate in the Elections,"
Chuvashiya's voters will still be able to check the "against
all" box on October 8. The Chuvashiya Republic's electoral
law was adopted only on June 14, 2006, which gave parties and
candidates intending to participate in the
elections scant
time to adjust to changes in the electoral process.
Important features of the Republic's electoral law:

-- minimum voting age: 21 years
-- voter participation: a minimum of 20 percent of all
registered voters for the election to be valid
-- observers from registered NGOs permitted
-- percentage of votes necessary for party to be represented
in the Council: 7
-- "closed" party lists, i.e., voters cannot indicate their
preferences for candidates on party lists

Parties on the Sidelines

3. (C) Five of Chuvashiya's registered 22 parties will
participate in the election. The registration petition of a
sixth party, the Russian Party of Pensioners (RPP), was
rejected by the Republic's Central Electoral Commission
(CEC). The CEC found that RPP's preparation of its financial
documents and contributions to its election fund had violated
the law. According to the CEC the RPP had 1.4 million rubles
more in its accounts than indicated on documents submitted to
the CEC. In addition the CEC found that the RPP had accepted
a contribution of 1.5 million rubles from the fund "Narodnoe
dostoyanie" when the law permits a maximum contribution from
any one organization of no more than 1.05 million rubles. The
RPP contended that in its documents it had mistakenly
indicated contributions from two organizations when it had in
fact received its total contribution from three funds. It
initially announced that it would appeal the CEC's decision,
but did not do so. Poloff was told that driving the RPP's
decision to stand down was a decision made over its head in
Moscow by leaders of the incipient Russian Party of
Life-Rodina-RPP alliance to have Rodina be the standard
bearer in the October 8 Chuvashiya election.

MOSCOW 00011137 002 OF 005

4. (C) The decision of the Russian Party of Life's (RPL)
Moscow leadership to sit out the Chuvashiya contest appears
to have been very unpopular in Cheboksary. RPL's Chuvashiya
Deputy Chairman Mikhail Gorbatin ruefully told Poloff that
the order from Moscow had come at the eleventh hour, and did
not allow some of the potential RPL candidates to be folded
into Rodina's list. Gorbatin invited Poloff to ask him whom
he would vote for October 8. "I will cross them all out," he
said bitterly. Also not participating is the Agrarian Party
of Russia (APR). The APR has strong support in Chuvashiya's
regions, but decided at its eighth extraordinary conference
not to field candidates, as there was a need for "political
consolidation" behind United Russia and its leading
candidate, Chuvashiya's President Nikolai Fedorov.

Patriots of Russia Under Pressure

5. (C) The CEC's treatment of party-affiliated individual
candidacies seemed generally evenhanded, with the exception
of the party Patriots of Russia (PR). As expected, all
twenty-two of the Kremlin's United Russia candidates were
registered. The Communist Party (KPRF) elected to field 19
candidates and all were registered, while the Liberal
Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) lost one of its 21
candidates to the CEC. In contrast, the CEC declined to
register six of the PR's 21 nominees. In a September 29
conversation, PR Chairman Vladislav Soldatov alleged to
Embassy that his party was under relentless pressure because
of its unwillingness to defer to United Russia. The
authorities had intimidated several PR candidates. Among

-- Vadim Bulankin, who was found by the CEC to have
understated his income by 30635 rubles, and has withdrawn;
-- Aleksandr Samakin who, although registered by the CEC, has
withdrawn because of threats;
-- Roman Kalyaev, who was told he would lose his job at
Chuvashautodor (a republic-owned road construction firm) if
he remained in the race;
-- (FNU) Golgov, who was told he would lose his job as the
Director of Svyaztekhnika, and withdrew without protest.

6. (C) Soldatov averred that appealing CEC decisions to deny
registration was a fruitless endeavor. The judge of the
court to which such decisions are appealed, he said, is Rais
Gafyrov who for his services in past elections had been given
an apartment with a European-quality renovation and a salary
of 90 thousand rubles per year.

7. (C) In a September 28 meeting, CEC Chairwoman Lyudmila
Linik insisted that there had been no problems with the
electoral process. She traced the failure of a large number
of individual-mandate candidates to register to miscellaneous
violations of the electoral law. In addition, she
acknowledged, a large number of candidates had withdrawn
before completing the registration process. (Of the 179
candidates who announced their intention to register, 119
were registered.) (Linik is widely believed here to have been
awarded a very nice home on the fringes of the city for her
work in arranging the results of the last presidential

8. (C) Also under pressure, according to other sources in
Cheboksary, are PR candidates Aleksandr Kudryashov, the
Director of Chuvasenrakhmal. Kudryashov allegedly had been
offered a large sum of money to withdraw, and young people in
his campaign were regularly stopped by the local police. The
pressure on PR candidate Yuriy Nikiforov seems to be
increasing, as polls show him neck-and-neck with the head of
the administration of Vurnarskiy region (FNU) Kuzmin.
Finally, on September 23 PR candidate Vladimir Sudakov, the
General Director of the newspaper Chuvashiya Komsomolskaya
Pravda, in responding to reports that his campaign workers
were being harassed, wounded a by-stander with a rubber
bullet. Soldatov alleged that Sudakov was provoked by "thugs
hired by the local (Chuvashiya) administration." Police are
investigating the incident. Interestingly, the incident was
the only reporting about opposition campaign efforts
published in the local media during Poloff's visit to

9. (C) Soldatov further alleged that PR campaign headquarters
had been ransacked during the week of September 18. A group
of armed men had entered the premises, located in a
Cheboksary suburb, at night, tied up the watchman, opened the
safe, and removed key PR documents. When Soldatov arrived,

MOSCOW 00011137 003 OF 005

he discovered his headquarters swarming with higher-ranking
police officers, who questioned him. Soldatov alleged that
the protocol he was made to sign could be used as a pretext
hold him for questioning and, possibly, detain him at any
point during the campaign. He insisted the break-in was
"political" in nature; noting that none of electronic
equipment had been stolen. Soldatov's account of events was
broadly confirmed by local Kommersant correspondent Oleg

10. (C) Soldatov also alleged that the Chuvashiya
Administration was "stacking" the twenty-two regional
electoral commissions. In his version, participants from the
more pliable parties --the KPRF, LDPR, Rodina-- had agreed to
allow United Russia to staff the regional commissions. The
quid pro quo, said Soldatov, was a guarantee from the
Chuvashiya administration that the KPRF would win 15 - 17
percent of the vote (as opposed to the 10 percent generally
expected), and that the LDPR would cross the 7 percent
barrier to representation in the State Council. Eruslanov
and local Regnum journalist Valentina Andreyeva could not
confirm Soldatov's allegations, but agreed they tracked
broadly with trends in Chuvashiya.

Access to Media: A Problem

11. (C) The campaign in Chuvashiya officially began 28 days
before the October 8 elections. Per regulation, each of the
registered political parties was allotted one hour of airtime
on each of the regional channels during that period. Each
single-mandate candidate was given 15 minutes of airtime.
Candidates, especially from PR, agreed that the required
broadcast media access was available, but argued that access
of opposition parties was confined to weekday mornings or
afternoons, when much of the voting population did not watch
television. A list of broadcast slots posted in the CEC
suggested there might be some basis for that allegation. It
showed that PR airtime on Radio Rossii for the dates
September 13, 22, 25; October 3, 6 as scheduled between 1000
and 1030. A second list of PR airtime on Cheboksary
Television for the dates September 14, 21, 26; October 2, 5
allotted the party slots in the 1600 - 1630 timeframe.
Regnum correspondent Valentina Andreyeva alleged that media
exposure was less important to candidates in this election.
In fact, she said, many candidates see the local television
networks as compromised, and prefer not to be associated with
them. Eruslanov suggested that candidates avoid television
because "they have nothing to say." An official at the CEC
noted that those candidates garnering less than 2 percent of
the vote have to reimburse the cost of their airtime, and
suggested that could be a deterrent for some.

12. (C) It was impossible, during Poloff's brief visit to
Cheboksary to evaluate the treatment of parties and
candidates by the print media. A survey of some the
newspapers --"Sovetskaya Chuvashiya," "Cheboksarie Novosti,"
and "Molodezhnyj Kur'er"-- indicated that the comings and
goings of Russia's and Chuvashiya's officialdom received most
of the coverage, although "Kur'er" did feature postage
stamp-sized ads for KPRF (with a portrait of Che Guevara) and
LDPR on its third page. Party posters were on display around
the city but, again, PR propaganda seemed to be largely
absent. A survey of the city's central avenue, Karl Marx
Street, found many posters for United Russia; fewer for LDPR
and the KPRF; and none for Rodina and PR.

Aid from Moscow

13. (C) Although the KPRF had traditionally been strong in
Chuvashiya, it has lost its luster, and observers peg its
current support to pensioners. KPRF Central Committee
Chairman Gennadiy Zyuganov has made an effort to reverse that
trend this time around with a September 26-27 visit to
Cheboksary and Chuvashiya's regions. (Zyuganov was widely
criticized by Chuvashiya communists for spending only several
hours in Cheboksary three years ago during the Duma election
campaign.) At a press conference, Zyuganov predicted that
the KPRF would win one-third of the votes, and publicly aired
the possibility of electoral fraud on October 8. LDPR leader
Vladimir Zhirinovskiy will have made two trips to Chuvashiya
before election day. With much of LDPR's local popularity
tied to his flamboyant personality, frequent visits are key
to the party's efforts to cross the 7 percent threshold.
Within the last two weeks, United Russia has sent the Duma's
International Affairs Committee Chairman Konstantin Kosachev,

MOSCOW 00011137 004 OF 005

Deputy Director of the Duma Vyacheslav Volodin, and Chairman
of the Duma's Regional Affairs Committee Viktor Grishin to

Ambitious Goal for United Russia

14. (C) It was widely believed by Cheboksary interlocutors of
all stripes that United Russia (YR) had been set the goal
--by Moscow-- of capturing at least 50 percent of the votes
on October 8. In a September 29 conversation, YR Chuvashiya
Deputy Chairman (and Chairman of Cheboksary's Executive
Committee) Vladimir Midukov agreed. Midukov's prediction was
seconded by Russian Party of Life (RPL) Deputy Chairman
Mikhail Gorbatin. Some disinterested observers, while
acknowledging that YR and its administrative resources
offered it an unassailable advantage even in a free and fair
election, believed that winning 50 percent of the votes would
be impossible without electoral fraud. Other observers
believed that outright fraud would be avoided, but that the
republic's rural voters would be "told" whom to vote for, as
would employees of key factories. Other observers added that
the absence of RPP, the Union of Right Forces, and Yabloko
from the ballot meant less competition for centrist voters,
and more votes in the YR bank on election day. Also cited
were the long coattails of President Putin, who remains
genuinely popular in Chuvashiya. (Opinions about Chuvashiya
President Fedorov are decidedly more mixed.) The consensus
among observers was that, in a fair election YR would garner
20 - 25 percent of the vote, KPRF: 10 - 12 percent, LDPR: 10
percent, PR: 7 - 10, and Rodina: less than 7 percent.
(According to the news agency Regnum, in the 2003 Duma
elections YR received 38 percent of the votes, the KPRF - 17
percent, the LDPR - 8 percent, the Agrarian Party - 7
percent, and Rodina - 5 percent.)

15. (C) In addition to the sheer statistical difficulties,
further complicating YR's attempt to win 50 percent of the
popular vote will be rivalries within the party. According
to observers, this rivalry manifests itself in two ways:

-- a number of local political personalities, when not chosen
to represent YR in the election, chose to run anyway. Their
participation complicates the efforts of YR to organize
unified support in each of the 22 electoral districts. Some
believe that at least some of those candidates do not intend
to be spoilers for YR, but have thrown their hats into the
ring in order to be "bought off" by the party or to win name
recognition for a possible future election run;

-- other observers allege a serious rivalry between two
groups in the Chuvashiya administration. One group is
allegedly headed by the current Head of Chuvashiya's
Presidential Administration and, it is rumored, the most
likely successor to President Fedorov, Enver Ablyakimov. The
second group is chaired by the Chuvashiya's Minister of
Sport, Mikhail Krasnov and Krasnov's brother, who is also in
the administration. In their struggle for supremacy, each
group has fielded its own candidates in some of the
single-mandate contests. If an agreement is not reached
before the elections, the YR's expectations may have to be

16. (C) In Cheboksary, the October 8 elections are widely
viewed as a dress rehearsal for the 2007 Duma elections. As
part of YR's campaign, the voters are frequently reminded of
what the Republic administration has done for them. Among
the accomplishments touted are:

-- the completion of a network providing natural gas
connections to all dwellings in Chuvashiya;
-- the consolidation and reform of the school system, with
fewer, better-funded, computer-equipped schools and a network
of 200 buses to get the students to them;
-- an on-going program to provide potable water to all;
-- an effort to be completed in 2008, to pave all of the
Republic's roads;
-- a new network of ambulances and a state-of-the-art
ambulance dispatch network;
-- the halving of public sector payroll indebtedness;
-- a reportedly successful experiment in "electronic
-- a 15 percent payraise for public employees in 2006, and a
promised 11 percent increase in 2007.

It is expected that continuing infusions from the
Stabilization Fund will further buoy UR's election prospects.

MOSCOW 00011137 005 OF 005

17. (C) Implicitly supplementing those programs is a
consensus that life is getting better, at least in
Cheboksary. where about 400 thousand of the Republic's 1
million, 300 thousand residents live. The same, according to
those in Cheboksary, cannot be said for the Republic's
regions, where development is reportedly more spotty.


18. (C) Cheboksary and its environs are bristling with new
apartment buildings, the city recently opened a new dock for
Volga River tourist traffic, there are more than enough cars
to fill the roads that have yet to be paved, and encounters
with residents during Poloff's two-day stay suggest that a
sense of progress and economic well-being should translate,
at least in the capital, into a majority of votes for the
status quo. Still, YR appears to be under some pressure,
perhaps from Moscow, to make that majority absolute, which is
likely the source of some of the misbehavior described here.