North Ossetia was the only region where ER garnered a substantially lower share of the vote than during the December 2011 elections to the Russian State Duma.
Even so, United Russia’s two main rivals in North Ossetia, Patriots of Russia (PR) and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), have both rejected the preliminary election results as falsified.
According to those preliminary results, United Russia polled 46.2 percent of the vote (compared with 67.9 percent in December) while Patriots of Russia got 26.5 percent, compared with 0.35 percent in the State Duma ballot.
The KPRF, which has traditionally placed second in North Ossetia, was relegated to third place with 10.5 percent of voters' preferences.
At present, United Russia has 38 of the total 70 mandates, PR has 12, with the KPRF and A Just Russia – receiving four apiece. (By contrast, in nearby Krasnodar Krai, United Russia won 95 of the 100 mandates.)
One self-nominated non-partisan candidate won in a single mandate constituency.
Run-offs are scheduled for October 28 in 11 more of the 35 single-mandate constituencies.
With a total of 17 parties participating, the average number of candidates in single-mandate constituencies was 8-9, and in some it was as high as 11.
Between 1,000 and 2,000 PR supporters staged a protest in Vladikavkaz on October 16.
They adopted a formal appeal to the republic’s Central Election Commission not to tabulate the results until all complaints of malpractice have been investigated.
Former State Duma deputy Arsen Fadzayev, elected with 56.5 percent of the vote in a single-mandate constituency, claimed PR “won a convincing victory,” which he said the republic’s authorities “are trying to steal from us.”
Commentators and senior ER functionaries are unanimous in attributing PR’s impressive showing in North Ossetia primarily to Fadzayev, the former two-time Olympic freestyle wrestling gold medalist and five-time world champion who also headed the PR party list.
Fadzayev, 50, is a classic example of the larger-than-life local hero who managed to parlay prowess as a wrestler into political influence in his home republic. (Others include Eduard Kokoity, former de facto president of Georgia’s breakaway Republic of South Ossetia, and Sagid Murtazaliyev , the ex-head of Daghestan’s Kizlyar Raion, who is now in charge of the Daghestan subsidiary of the Federal Pension Fund.)
In 1999, Fadzayev was appointed as deputy head of the North Caucasus directorate of the Federal Tax Police and elected as a member of the North Ossetian parliament.
He was subsequently elected twice to the Russian State Duma, in 2003 for the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) and in 2007 for United Russia.
Fadzayev formally quit United Russia four months ago, saying that, in recent years, the party had begun to distance itself from the people, and people’s problems, and had thus discredited itself “irrevocably.”
Nonetheless, it is possible that he had decided to quit earlier, given the strained relations between himself and Republic of North Ossetia head Taymuraz Mamsurov.
Fadzayev had reportedly assumed he would again head United Russia’s list of candidates in last December’s State Duma elections, but Mamsurov insisted on heading the list himself, with Fadzayev placed fifth, thereby guaranteeing he would not be re-elected.
It was only due to a high voter turnout (85 percent) that North Ossetia ended up with no fewer than four State Duma deputies (two from ER and two from the KPRF) compared with just one (Fadzayev) in the previous two parliaments.
Just a few weeks after the Duma election, Fadzayev hinted that he would participate in the parliamentary election this fall, and in the 2015 election for republic head when Mamsurov’s second term expires.
Mamsurov and Fadzayev also don't see eye to eye on Russian policy toward South Ossetia.
As a State Duma deputy, Fadzayev argued eloquently in August 2008 in favor of Moscow formally recognizing the breakaway region as an independent sovereign state.
Mamsurov, by contrast, makes no secret of his hopes that South Ossetia will one day be united with North Ossetia as part of the Russian Federation, although he concedes this may not happen in his lifetime. (He is 58.)
North Ossetian Prime Minister Sergei Takoyev admitted last week that ER had not anticipated that rival parties would campaign “so aggressively.”
Neither Takoyev nor any other senior republican official has said so openly, but PR's 26 percent share of the vote might well have been even higher if voter turnout had not been so low (just 43.8 percent).
With a few exceptions, such as Chechnya, voter turnout is generally lower across Russia for republic-level polls than for national elections, as many disaffected voters are convinced that republic-level parliaments have no powers to bring about positive change, and therefore stay at home on polling day.
In that respect, it will be interesting to see whether the unprecedentedly high vote for PR will motivate voters in North Ossetia to turn out in significantly larger numbers in the run-off and cast their ballots for that party.
The first priority of North Ossetia’s new parliament will be to adopt in the second reading a long-term (until 2025) strategic socioeconomic development program intended to modernize and render more effective the region’s largely agriculture-based economy, raise living standards, and reduce the chronic unemployment that drives many young men to seek work elsewhere in the Russian Federation. (The unemployment problem reflects a shortage of skilled labor. A recently modernized furniture plant has just hired 14 specialist craftsmen from India.)
Fadzayev’s chances of winning the 2015 ballot to find Mamsurov’s successor will hinge partly on the effectiveness of that development program over the next 2 ½ years, and partly on whether ER can field a rival candidate of comparable stature and charisma to run against him.