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08MOSCOW2910 2008-10-01 13:13:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow
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1. (C) Summary: In Kemerovo Oblast, no party can muster a
viable opposition to United Russia's (ER) stranglehold on
local politics. Led by charismatic governor Aman Tuleyev, ER
holds a supermajority in the regional parliament that likely
will grow in the upcoming October 12 elections. Liberal
parties and the Communist Party (KPRF) barely register in the
region, while LDPR and Just Russia are left to fight each
other over any votes that may push them over the 7 percent
electoral threshold. On September 30, KPRF filed an official
complaint against Tuleyev in response to what they call his
illegal "anti-communist propaganda." Voter turnout is
expected to reach 65 percent. End Summary.

Liberals Founder, Communists Sue To Remain Afloat



2. (C) Liberal political opposition is nearly non-existent in
Kemerovo region. The Union of Right Forces (SPS), the
region's only liberal party of note, has been unable to
muster public support and speaks primarily through its
affiliation with local independent newspaper Nasha Gazeta.
The paper's editor, Dmitriy Shagiakhmetov, doubles as the
region's SPS head, and even he acknowledged that daily
readership is no more than 2,000-3,000. Liberal opposition
parties have no access to television or radio, Shagiakhmetov
lamented in a September 22 meeting, and internet outreach
does not produce results. Despite his limited reach,
Shagiakhmetov nonetheless considers his party, along with ER
and KPRF, to be one of only three "real" parties in Kemerovo.

3. (C) KPRF State Duma Deputy Nina Ostanina acknowledged that
her party has lost substantial prestige since popular
Kemerovo governor Aman Tuleyev switched affiliation from KPRF
to ER. Still, on September 23 Ostanina preferred to look to
a future when "voters will see that (United Russia) did not
deliver" on its promises and as a result return to KPRF. On
September 30, according to a Kommersant article, KPRF in
Kemerovo filed an official complaint against Tuleyev for what
KPRF deemed the governor's illegal campaigning against
Communists while using administrative resources.
Specifically, KPRF alleged, Tuleyev "spread information
damaging the honor, dignity, and business reputation" of his
opponents. KPRF's Ostanina told media that she recognized
that the complaint will not change the electoral outcome, but
she hoped it will "reduce or terminate anti-communist
propaganda." (Note: This latest legal row is clearly a
response to a lawsuit that Tuleyev in February brought
against KPRF's national leader, Gennadiy Zyuganov. Zyuganov
had publicly accused the governor and Kemerovo authorities of
"flagrantly violating the law" and of arresting and beating
KPRF members. A court ruled then that Zyuganov had to pay
Tuleyev 18,000USD for "damaging (the governor's) honor,
dignity, and business reputation." End Note.)

4. (C) Kemerovo University political scientist Sergey
Biryukov told us September 22 that ER, Just Russia (SR), and
LDPR are the only "real parties in Kemerovo." KPRF, he
noted, is "in crisis" and retains no relevance today.
Biryukov summarized SPS's marginal status by explaining that
"they never had resonance with miners or industrial workers."

Upcoming Opposition Conferences


5. (C) Shagiakhmetov told us that an October 25 regional
conference of liberal democratic opposition will take place
in Kemerovo, to which representatives from Altai Krai also
have been invited. The results of this conference,
Shagiakhmetov noted, would help to inform a national
democratic opposition conference planned for December 13 in

Just Russia and LDPR Predict Bright Futures For Themselves



6. (C) In a September 23 meeting, Just Russia leader Yelena
Yamshchikova repeatedly emphasized SR's youth in the region,
boasting that in just two years the party had made dramatic
progress in attracting new members. The next four years, she
predicted, would bring &political successes, social change,
and popular support8 for SR. Yamshchikova described her
party as "constructive opposition" to ER, but regional
leaders of KPRF, SPS, and LDPR all told us that they could
see no meaningful difference between ER and SR. Questioning
SR's role in the opposition, LDPR head Vladimir Bunkin
scoffed that SR "does not have a plan" and is inseparable
from ER. Political scientist Sergey Biryukov agreed, adding
that in Kemerovo "&SR tries to attach itself to ER to move

its program forward," but their ability to gain influence on
political and economic conditions "depends entirely on its
relationship with ER."

7. (C) LDPR leaders were optimistic regarding prospects in
future elections. "The government is corrupt," and "there
are not enough smart and competent people in the government"
for ER to maintain its stranglehold on Kemerovo politics,
noted LDPR's Bunkin in a September 23 meeting. Primarily old
people vote for KPRF, Bunkin observed, and as they die off
votes will accrue to LDPR since it attracts more young voters.

October 12 Elections Expected To Be United Russia Landslide



8. (C) All observers agreed that ER will win a supermajority
in the region's October 12 parliamentary elections.
Thirty-six seats are being contested by the four State Duma
parties, since SPS and the Party of Peace and Unity were
excluded by electoral authorities for what were deemed
irregularities in submitted petition signatures. Professor
Biryukov estimated that ER will win 30 of the 36 seats, with
SR and LDPR splitting the remaining seats. SR's Yamshchikova
estimated that her party would win 10-12 percent of the vote.
LDPR's Bunkin estimated that his party would take 14
percent. KPRF State Duma Deputy predicted that the
Communists would take 7-8 percent. Sergey Reutov, chairman
of the region's electoral commission, predicted a 65 percent
voter turnout for the election, down from 72 percent for the
March presidential election.

9. (C) Comment: United Russia continues to dominate Kemerovo
politics, leaving other parties to fight for scraps in hopes
of winning any seats in the regional parliament. Non-ER
parties recognize the impossibility of cutting into ER's
base, so they instead must look to poach each other's votes.
Further illustrating ER's strength is how both KPRF and LDPR
prefer to look far into the future, by which time the
Communists hope miners will return to KPRF, and LDPR hopes
that all the Communists will have died off. The minuscule
presence of any political opposition, aside from SR's straw
man "constructive opposition," ensures that even State Duma
parties will be marginalized. Accordingly, October 12 will
be less a referendum on ER than a commentary on the region's
neutered and fractious opposition.