The March 1 local elections continue to haunt the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party. An intra-party election conflict in Murmansk resulted in the regional governor being removed. Now there are unexpected rumblings in St. Petersburg, the traditionally liberal city where the ruling party regularly has to resort to outrageous tactics to maintain its monopoly on power.
Gazeta.spb reported today that 23-year-old Anton Chumachenko, a successful Unified Russia candidate for a seat on a local district council, may refuse to accept his mandate because he is ashamed of the blatant falsification of the voting in his district.
"We sat there until the end [on election day]," Chumachenko was quoted as saying. "We saw all the protocols. And the fact that a week later we saw completely different protocols didn't surprise us -- it shocked us. This was my first election. I had a different opinion of the electoral system in our country. I was naive."
With the party increasingly trying to bring in a new generation of leaders and managers, it is possible it will run into other "naive" people who would rather lose elections fairly than when Unified Russia-style.
And Chumachenko's conscience isn't the only one that was rubbed raw by the fraud. On March 10, Dmitry Gryzlov -- the son of party CEO and Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov -- who was a losing Unified Russia candidate in the St. Petersburg elections, complained about Unified Russia's conduct in an interview with "Gorod 1812."
"The elections were literally run by [the party]," Gryzlov the Younger said. "And its actions were handled by a person close to the leadership of the Legislative Assembly who handled the connection between business and the mafia, on one hand, and the authorities, on the other. Everyone knows about him, but everyone is afraid to touch him. He was the one who prevented me from being elected."
Gryzlov refused to name the mysterious person, but said that he had mentioned the name in conversation with his father.
According to official results, Unified Russia got 77 percent of the vote in St. Petersburg. The left-leaning pro-Kremlin A Just Russia party, the Communist Party, and Yabloko have all filed complaints alleging falsification.
-- Robert Coalson