It is very unusual for a major American newspaper such as The New York Times to publish an article on regional elections in Russia. To write the article, Steven Lee Myers, NYT’s Moscow correspondent, has even committed a trip to St. Petersburg. It was a waste of money: with Myers’ ignorance on the subject of Russia’s electoral law and political parties, he might well have written this piece sitting in Moscow (or in New York City, for that matter).
A few examples:
Two candidates in local elections here in March, a soccer star and figure skating champion, have no known intention of giving up sports for legislative politics. If they win, as they almost certainly will, their Kremlin-friendly parties, not the voters, will choose the candidates to fill their seats.
By "figure skating champion" Myers means Olympic and world champion Yevgeny Plushchenko, one of the top three names in the party list registered by Just Russia. In a number of interviews, Plushchenko expressed his desire to serve in the City Assembly, if elected. And why not? Nearing the end of his spectacular athletic career, Plushchenko may well follow the example of many former sports stars (think of Vladislav Tretyak) and find new excitement in politics.
The elections here (in St. Petersburg) on March 11, like those in 13 other regions, will preview coming national elections in which voters’ choices will be severely limited at best.
Hard to understand what Myers wanted to say. On March 11, 15 political parties will take part in the elections. Experts believe that at least ten will participate in the Duma election. How many parties does Myers want Russian voters to have for making "choices"?
The Kremlin has also made it more difficult for political parties to form and register. According to officials, the Justice Ministry refused to qualify 15 of the 32 that applied last year…
Myers has "kasha" in his head. What he apparently intended to say is that last year, the Federal Registration Service found that 17 out of 36 registered parties don’t comply with the law on political parties. Three of them, by the way, are still running in the March 11 elections.
… the Kremlin has simply assured the smooth re-election of pro-presidential parties.
Myers ought to know that pro-presidential Just Russia has only been recently formed and never before run for elections. How can it be "re-elected"?
Another liberal party, the Union of Right Forces, was knocked off the ballot in Vologda, Pskov and Samara.
SPS was knocked off the ballot in Vologda, Pskov, Tumen, and Dagestan. In Samara it was re-installed by the decision of the Central Election Commission, the fact known to anyone who reads Russian newspapers or watches TV.
Admittedly, Myers provided some local flavor by covering extensively misfortunes of Yabloko. But Myers’ understanding of what happened to Yabloko is so limited, that there is simply no reason to repeat this rant on "the pressure on opposition."
As the December election to the State Duma is approaching, expect more "field reports" like Myers’. The goal of this unrolling campaign is clear: to make the next Russia’s parliament seem illegitimate.