At the previous election to the Moscow city council (aka the Moscow city Duma, Mosgorduma), the Kremlin’s puppet party (United Russia, UR) won 38 seats out of 45. Yesterday, UR’s candidates – all of them running as independents as the party’s brand had grown toxic – only won about 20 seats. Using both an old trick, ballot-stuffing, and a new one, tinkering with internet voting, they added five more seats for a majority of 25 out of 45.
Still, it was a major success for the opposition, particularly for Alexei Navalny’s “smart voting” operation. The election authorities had barred most opposition candidates from running and kept the most prominent of them under arrest for weeks before the election day. As a counter-move, Navalny suggested strategic voting to make United Russia lose as many seats as possible. It worked, surprisingly. In effect, the non-UR candidates chosen by the opposition as its favorites became stand-ins for the genuine opposition candidates. One newly elected councilman was actually a stand-in for a stand-in, and yet he beat, on a near-zero budget, one of the heaviest-spending Kremlin favorites.