Around seven thousand Russian regions and municipalities, including Moscow, held local elections on Sunday. Alexey Navalny, the de-facto leader of the Russian opposition, polled about 30% in the Moscow mayoral election based on exit polls. This is way above the 15-20% he was widely expected to receive. It’s an impressive result since Navalny was denied access to the mainstream media, was smeared on state TV, was convicted of a crime that was not even committed, and to top it all off, was accused by Putin himself of being corrupt.
The state-controlled election commissions will probably try to rig the vote count somewhat, but the opposition seems to have its observers at most polling stations so the rigging will probably be much less than in December 2011, at the Duma elections. However I would not be surprised if the official count gave Navalny only 25% and the incumbent pro-Putin mayor Sergey Sobyanin, 55%. In reality – as measured by exit polls – Sobyanin’s share of the vote is hovering around 50%. If he ended up with 50% less one vote or less, there would be a second round, giving Navalny a good chance at the mayor’s office. That’s why I expect some not too shameless rigging to deliver several unearned percentage points to Sobyanin.
Exit polls also show that Yevgeny Royzman, the controversial opposition candidate, has been elected mayor of Yekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth largest city. Over there, the rules are different and there is no second round: the winner of the first round becomes mayor. The exit polls show Royzman leading by 7 points, 34% to 27%, meaning he almost certainly won and if the official tally says otherwise, it must be rotten.