Activists decry Russia's latest case of 'managed democracy'
Opposition candidates are crying foul at official results from Sunday's controversial mayoral elections in Sochi, Russia, the venue of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Opposition candidates are crying foul at official results from Sunday's controversial mayoral elections in Sochi, Russia, the venue of the 2014 Winter Olympics. Tallies show the Kremlin's choice, Anatoly Pakhomov, bulldozing aside a field of six contenders with a Sovietesque 77 percent victory.Skip to next paragraph
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Pro-democracy activists, backed by some experts, insist the outcome is a classic case of former President Vladimir Putin's "managed democracy," in which a facade of multi-candidate elections veils a process of official coercion, manipulation, and outright persecution that ensures that no genuine oppositionist will ever win.
Some experts had hoped the system, which seemed to reach its peak with the almost uncontested election of Mr. Putin's successor Dmitri Medvedev last year, might be on the wane. The pro-Kremlin United Russia Party has lost recent municipal contests in Murmansk and Smolensk, and one triumphant United Russia candidate, Anton Chumachenko, last week resigned his seat on St. Petersburg's city council to protest the "cynical mockery" of democracy that produced his victory.
Putin, who is now prime minister, staked his personal reputation on winning the bid to host the 2014 Winter Games in Russia and ponied up a Kremlin pledge of more than $12 billion in funding for Olympic infrastructure in the fading Soviet-era Black Sea resort zone.
"This had nothing to do with fair and democratic elections, it was just the crowning of the authorities' candidate with a show of voting," says Sergei Obukhov, a Communist Duma deputy who spent the past month campaigning for his party's contender, Yury Dzaganiya. He insists that the 7 percent garnered by Mr. Dzagina is far below the traditional Communist performance in Sochi, and much less than the 20 percent their own polling had led them to expect. Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister and Sochi native, says he will launch a court challenge of the official results, which gave him 14 percent. Exit polls conducted by his campaign showed him winning 35 percent against Mr. Pakhomov's 46 percent, Mr. Nemtsov insists in a statement on his Website.