The metastasis of registration refusals for the March 11 regional elections is spreading from Yabloko to the Union of Right Forces (SPS). As of today, SPS has been denied registration in five regions: Dagestan, Vologda, Pskov, Samara, and Tumen.
The SPS leader, Nikita Belykh, was not original and, like his Yabloko’s counterpart, Grigory Yavlinsky, has promptly called the decisions “politically motivated.” He however, went a step further and directly accused top United Russia’s officials in pressuring regional election authorities.
When reading a report on Belykh’s news-conference, one cannot get rid of a feeling of being treated as a child, or, worse, an idiot. Take Tumen. Here, SPS was denied registration because it was late in posting the election bond. The deadline was at 6 pm on Saturday, February 3. Belykh explained that the money was wired (from Moscow, of course) the day before, on Friday. Does not Belykh know that in province, banks on Saturdays work on a short schedule, if at all? Why not wire the money on Thursday, Wednesday, or, better yet, a week in advance?
Belykh’s assertion that United Russia was trying to eliminate SPS as its major competitor in the election is simply laughable. The major opponent to the “party of power” in 2006 regional elections was CPFR with about 17 per cent of total seats in regional parliaments (United Russia had 51). SPS has won only 2 per cent of the seats. In most regions on March 11, SPS’s primary goal would be not to compete will United Russia, but to simply overcome the 7 per cent electoral threshold.
True, in some regions, such as St. Petersburg, Moscow District, and, perhaps, Leningrad District, SPS may well collect as much as 10 per cent of the vote. But it is these three regions where SPS has had absolutely no problem with registering.
Which points to a different scenario. I strongly suspect that SPS – having not enough money and people resources to run full-fledge campaigns in all 14 regions – is simply provoking registration refusals in the regions where it cannot really compete. This would allow it to focus on winnable campaigns only, but at the same time gain valuable media exposure and – not a small thing in Russia – the image of a victim of oppression and injustice.