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Kremlin and Chickens Secure Election Victory for Diamond Tycoon

: Gazeta.Ru  

Presidential elections held in the Russian republics of Yakutia, Adygeya and Kabardin-Balkaria on Sunday brought almost no surprises. In all three regions the candidates with the Kremlins backing won. In Yakutia however, there was almost an upset With half of all ballot-papers counted, Kremlin-backed candidate Vyacheslav Shtyrov, the chief of Russias diamond mining monopoly Alrosa, had gathered 3.5% less votes than his rival Fedot Tumusov, president of the SAPI financial industrial group.

Vyacheslav Shtyrov was the clear favourite to win the second round run-off in Yakutia. He had the support of both the Kremlin and the incumbent president of the republic Mikhail Nikolayev who himself withdrew from the elections before the first round and urged his supporters to vote for the president of Alrosa, the Yakutia-based diamond-mining giant.

Nikolayev was basically forced to withdraw his candidacy by the Kremlin but not without urging President Putin to back diamond tycoon Shtyrov rather than deputy Prosecutor General Vasily Kolmogorov, whom the Kremlin had initially groomed for the Yakutian presidency.

Nikolayev was condemned by the state-controlled media for the misuse of federal funds allocated to the north Siberian republic to repair damages inflicted by floods last spring. However, the true reason for his fall from favour was his resistance to the attempts by the federal authorities to gain more control over the lucrative Alrosa mining company. Following a series of scandals involving arrests, various court proceedings, condemning statements by Russias chief election official Aleaxander Veshnyakov, an investigation by the Audit Chamber, Nikolayev was summoned to the Kremlin, after which he announced he was dropping out of the election race.

Vyacheslav Shtyrov quickly agreed to let the federal centre take control over Alrosas finances, thus securing the Kremlins backing.

The first round of elections was held on December 23rd, but none of candidates secured the mandatory 50%, required to win outright. In Sundays second round run-off Shtyrov won, although at one stage of the count it looked likely that his rival Fedot Tumusov could win a surprise victory.

With half of all ballot papers counted in the Yakutian elections, Tumusov led with 48.8%, while was lagging with Shtyrov with 45.4%. However, a couple of hours later Shtyrov took the lead and subsequently won the election: According to preliminary reports he gained over 59% of the votes.

Tumusov gained overwhelming support in his native district of Verkhne-Vilyuiskiy, whereas his rival won the majority of votes in the diamond-mining Mirninskiy district.

By midnight the diamond king had taken the lead, and with 98% of all ballot papers counted, Shtyrov led Tumusov by 24%. After 98.34% of all papers were processed, the Central Electoral Committee announced that Vyacheslav Shtyrov had won the election with 59.25%. His only rival scored 34.6%.

The Yakutian authorities efforts to encourage high voter turnout did not fail. Despite temperatures as low as minus 45 degrees centigrade, by 6 :00 p.m. local time more than 60% of the electorate had cast their votes.

Most voters questioned admitted that they had cast their votes, not out of genuine support for one of the two candidates, but for material gain - At each polling station republican authorities organized the sale of cut-price foodstuffs, including half price chicken, and gave out lottery tickets, the first prize being a Volga car.

On Sunday presidential elections were also held in the Kabardin-Balkar Republic, where the incumbent Valery Kokov successfully secured his 3rd consecutive term of office, and in Adygeya, where the incumbent Aslan Dzharimov lost the presidency to entrepreneur Khazret Sovmen.

In the Adygeya and Kabadin-Balkar republics, both situated in the North Caucasian region in Southern Russia, voter turnout was higher than 50%.

According to preliminary results, in Adygeya the head of the Polyus gold-mining cartel Khazret Sovmen won the vote with 69%. Officials of the republics election commission told the RIA news agency that the incumbent president Aslan Dzharimov scored only 10.15%.

In Adygeya 63% of the electorate voted and seven candidates ran.

In Kabardin-Balkar Republic the incumbent Valery Kokov was re-elected. According to the republics electoral authorities, by 3:00 am Moscow time on Monday after 90% of papers had been counted, Kokov had scored 87.92% of votes.

His main rival, 53-year-old General Mukhamed Batyrov won only 7.67%. Other candidates won less that 1.5%.

Valery Kokov, who has already ruled the Kabardin-Balkar Republic for two terms, convinced the Kremlin of his absolute loyalty to the federal centre last autumn when a group of Chechen rebels and Georgian guerrillas attempted to break into Russia via Kabardin-Balkar territory. The republics departments of the law enforcement agencies reacted swiftly to all orders from the federal authorities.

Khazret Sovmens victory in Adygeya was somewhat surprising in so far as some observers predicted the incumbent president Aslan Dzharimov would win, despite the fact that the Kremlin shunned him after he publicly sided with the former president of the neighbouring republic of Ingushetia in several disputes with the Kremlin.

The results of Sundays elections are more evidence of the Kremlins increasing influence over the regions: Administrative assistance from the federal authorities and a personal declaration of support from the still highly popular President Putin now practically guarantee victory for the favoured candidates in regional elections.

14 17:03


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