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Russia's Ruling Party Faces Runoffs In Four Gubernatorial Races


Russian police officers push a teenager during a rally protesting retirement-age hikes in St. Petersburg on September 9.

Four candidates from Russia's ruling United Russia party have failed to secure first-round victories in gubernatorial elections over the weekend and will now face their respective challengers in a runoff.

The results came during September 9 elections across Russia that were held as police detained more than 1,000 people at antigovernment protests.

The elections, which included a vote on executive-branch heads in 21 of Russia's 85 regions, was the first major test for the government of President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev since it proposed raising the retirement age.

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​Putin brushed off the results in the Primorye and Khabarovsk regions in Russia's Far East, the Siberian region of Khakasia, and the central Vladimir region.

"In some regions, including in the Far East, there will be a second round. That's a completely normal practice," Putin said on September 10.

Putin previously served as the leader of United Russia and ran on the party's ticket in the 2012 presidential election. The party, which opposition leader Aleksei Navalny denounces as a collection of "crooks and thieves," has largely served as a rubber-stamp for Kremlin initiatives in parliament.

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In Khabarovsk, incumbent Governor Vyacheslav Shport of United Russia garnered 35.6 percent of the vote and was narrowly edged out by Sergei Furgal, a federal lawmaker from the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR), according to official results.

United Russia candidate Andrei Tarasenko, whom Putin appointed acting governor of the Primorye in October, won 46.5 percent of the vote and now faces a runoff against Communist Party candidate Andrei Ishchenko.

Meanwhile, the party's candidate in the Vladimir region, incumbent Governor Svetlana Orlova, got 36.4 percent compared to 31.1 percent for runner-up Vladimir Sipyagin of the Liberal Democrats. And in Khakasia, incumbent Viktor Zimin of United Russia finished well behind Communist candidate Valentin Konovalov, securing 32.4 percent compared to his challenger's 44.8 percent.

United Russia also failed to win a majority in regional parliaments in the Khakasia and Irkutsk regions, where it finished behind the Communists.

But Medvedev, the party's formal leader, said that United Russia's success elsewhere in the September 9 elections showed the party "is maintaining its leadership in almost every legislative body" in Russia.

The Kremlin's candidate in Moscow, Sergei Sobyanin, won reelection as mayor of the Russian capital with about 70 percent of the vote.

The election-day protests against the pension-reform plan that were organized by Navalny triggered harsh crackdowns by riot police in several cities and led to criminal charges against some of the more than 1,000 protesters detained nationwide.

Viktor Fedoseyev and Vasily Kostylev, who were detained in central Moscow in connection with the protests, have been charged with assaulting an officer, according to the Open Russia civic movement established by former Russian tycoon and Kremlin foe Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Russian Service, TASS, and Interfax
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