Regional and local elections took place in half of Russia’s 85 regions on 13 September and ALDE member party Yabloko, despite additional challenges, was able to elect 47 deputies in 11 regions.
Elected deputies of Yabloko will work in the Kostroma Regional Duma, as well as in the city councils of Tomsk, Kaluga and Kostroma. Party representatives were also elected to the municipal councils of Bashkiria, Dagestan, the Krasnoyarsk Territory, Moscow, Novgorod, Omsk, Samara and Pskov regions.
These set of elections were seen as an important test of the popularity of Mr Putin ahead of next year’s nationwide parliamentary elections, with a stagnant economy, the coronavirus pandemic and the recent vote to amend the Constitution and extend his possible term in office contributing to rising dissatisfaction.
Yabloko Chairman Nikolai Rybakov said the results showed that the party’s candidates “are winning elections even in such terrible conditions. It is even difficult to call it an election, when all [our candidates] are removed from elections, intimidated, taken into the courts.”
He noted that for one reason or another about a third of the candidates were denied participation in the elections – and that as a rule, those who had the highest chances of winning. Party observers recorded large-scale manipulations with early voting, apartments of candidates were searched and observer lectures interrupted, and during the campaign the party reported even their billboards being stolen from the streets.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us – the state in our country must be rebuilt after decades of planned destruction. Our work on the [Yabloko draft of the new Constitution for Russia] Constitution of Free People and the election campaigns of candidates for these elections is a great contribution to this work,” he said.
Yabloko founder Grigory Yavlinsky has published an article entitled ‘The Day After: on the end of a lost era and the outlook for the future’ in which he argues that the “democratic opposition should no longer play the role of adviser or consultant to the authorities. Politically, the regime must be forced into dialogue with the opposition. It is important to develop a modern political party, practice modern public politics and train new politicians. The end of the era lost by democratic forces must be transformed into the start of a new era. For this purpose, we need a new course of action, different priorities and a principally new departure in politics.”
Prior to his poisoning on 20 August, Alexei Navalny had also been campaigning in the Siberian city of Tomsk ahead of these elections. According to provisional results, the head of his Tomsk office did successfully win a city council seat. On 15 September, Mr Navalny posted a picture on Instagram showing his sat up in his hospital bed in Berlin where he is being treated and that he was breathing free of ventilation. The Yabloko Chairman and eleven Yabloko deputies from six regional legislative assemblies have called on the head of the Investigative Committee of Russia to open a criminal case on his poisoning.
The government had introduced two days of additional early voting as a measure to attempt to reduce the further spread of the coronavirus, but opposition candidates argue it was part of an effort to falsify the results in favour of the ruling United Russia party.
Photo credit: Yabloko Party