18:51 GMT +324 September 2017

    Russian Press - Behind the Headlines, October 19

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    Experts Point to Election Campaign Degradation \ Novaya Gazeta Owner Sells House to Save Newspaper \ Jail Break in Volgograd Region

    Nezavisimaya Gazeta

    Experts Point to Election Campaign Degradation

    The spoiler effect and lack of competition determined the outcome of the October 14 gubernatorial and local parliamentary elections. The Center for Political Technologies (CPT) and the Higher School of Economics claim that A Just Russia is falling apart, the LDPR has become the ruling party’s loyal satellite, the registered and non-registered opposition failed to present a united front, and United Russia is facing the splitting of elites. That opinion is challenged by the Civil Society Development Fund.

    CPT Vice President Rostislav Turovsky writes that it was only thanks to the other players’ loyalty and a lack of strong rivals that United Russia did so well.

    Another reason is Russia’s pseudo-multiparty system. For example, the Communists of Russia and the Communist Party of Social Justice took between 1.5 percent and 3 percent of the Communist Party (KPRF) vote.

    The CPT points to the disintegration of A Just Russia as a political force. It achieved good results only in Tver and Yaroslavl, receiving only 5 percent-7 percent of the votes in other regions. It was used as a spoiler to draw votes from the opposition in Tver and Kaliningrad.

    The LDPR has finally become United Russia’s satellite. Participation in absolutely all gubernatorial elections and the withdrawal of its candidate in Bryansk are evidence of the party’s weakness.

    The non-registered opposition lost the elections because it failed to unite with the registered opposition and due to the spoiler effect, Turovsky writes.

    United Russia is facing a split of the elites, but is benefiting from the pseudo-multiparty effect. First deputy chief of the presidential staff Vyacheslav Volodin won in Penza and Saratov and his attitude to the KPRF has become noticeably harsher. Experts believe that the Communist Party will ultimately be dumped.

    Experts from the Higher School of Economics (HSE) described the elections as “electoral authoritarianism.” They analyzed why the opposition lost the gubernatorial elections in five regions, even though the protest potential was quite strong in four of them.

    They cite the clever use of special instruments to ensure the election of pro-government candidates and point out that the main element was a lack of competition. Election lists included spoiler candidates and were formed with the use of pressure, bribes and behind-the-scenes agreements to ensure the necessary outcome.

    For example, inexperienced 34-35-year-old candidates were nominated in the Amur Region, strong candidates were denied registration in the Novgorod and Bryansk regions, and several spoilers were nominated in the Ryazan Region.

    But the electorate was not interested in these games: the turnout fell by 13 percent compared to the previous elections. The opposition could either refuse to participate or nominate a common candidate, but it chose an intermediate variant and hence lost.

    However, Civil Society Development Fund President Konstantin Kostin believes that the turnout was normal: 46 percent at gubernatorial elections and 43 percent at local parliamentary elections. He also praised the media activity of small parties and said that the result in Ryazan was ensured by the creation of a coalition with the governor’s main opponent.


    Novaya Gazeta Owner Sells House to Save Newspaper

    Billionaire Alexander Lebedev, who part-owns Novaya Gazeta (a newspaper fiercely critical of the Kremlin), is selling a home in central Moscow, property market sources said.

    “Potential buyers seem to lose interest in the property once they see the paperwork. It looks like the name of the seller is scaring them off,” a real estate agent said. “No one wants to have any dealings with an opposition activist because they fear problems with the authorities.”

    Lebedev had in fact predicted this reaction on the property market. When his funds dried up in August 2012, he said he was ready to sell the property on eBay and transfer the money raised to Novaya Gazeta.

    “I am ready to sell some assets. But I can’t because no one will buy anything from me,” he told Izvestia.

    Now he has apparently put his property on the market. “Some spare cash may be used to finance Novaya Gazeta,” his aide Artyom Artyomov said, adding that Lebedev had been regularly donating money to the newspaper for six years. His National Reserve Corporation has a lot of property which can be sold. Mr Lebedev said he planned to leave business in order to devote more time to his publishing projects and public activities.

    Lebedev said he has had to cut the paper’s financing in the past three months. The editorial team had to cut costs, but not wages. “We were prepared for this,” Editor-in-Chief Olga Lebedeva said. “We replaced our finance department, which helped us optimize costs. We are using a cheaper printing house. However, we pay our employees and contractors on time.”

    Lebedev earlier disclosed his spending on Novaya Gazeta. In 2008, he gave 94.5 million rubles ($3 million) to the newspaper; he donated 87 million rubles in 2009, 98 million rubles in 2010, 97 million rubles in 2011 and 4 million rubles ($130,200) in the first four months of 2012. Some of the money was provided in the form of loans. He said his donations accounted for 60 percent of the newspaper’s budget, while the rest came from sales, subscriptions and advertising.

    Novaya Gazeta faces difficult times, Lebedev said.

    “It looks like the funding will stop altogether soon,” he said.

    It is unclear how the team will be able to cover an estimated monthly deficit of 4 million rubles. “We’ll get together to try to find ways to survive,” Lebedev said, adding he could ask the government for money. He also said Novaya Gazeta was open to cooperation, but no potential investors had turned up so far.

    Lebedev has co-owned Novaya Gazeta with former Soviet President Mikhail Goerbachev since 2006. Over the past six years, he has spent a total of 500 million rubles ($16.3 million at the current exchange rate). The newspaper is controlled by its management, while Lebedev owns 39 percent and manages Gorbachev’s stake of 10 percent.

    Argumenty i Fakty

    Jail Break in Volgograd Region

    Police are searching for two convicts who escaped from a prison camp in the Volgograd Region yesterday. Some of the prison guards who are thought to have allowed the prisoners to escape are being interviewed.

    The head of the Volgograd Region’s Federal Penitentiary Service has initiated an inquiry into the penal colony guards whose negligence allegedly resulted in the incident, the police report.

    The escapees are Azerbaijani Samir Chingiz-ogly Nazarov, 38, serving 23 years for murder, robbery and car theft, and Alexei Malykhin, 26, sentenced to 12 and a half years for murder and theft.

    Both wanted convicts have been classified extremely dangerous in view of the offences related to their convictions.

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