Russia: Local elections draw criticism from opposition

Opposition party candidates, hoping to finally secure seats in the Russian Duma later next month, were met with complete failure after regional elections showed that the ruling United Russia party won every regional poll across the country. Other mainstream Russian parties like the Communist party, Liberal Democratic Party, and a Just Russia also made a strong showing. However, this was not due to lack of effort.

Opposition party candidates were left out of every regional election and poll except in Kostroma Oblast, and even there, opposition party Parnas garnered only 1.98% of the vote, while United Russia captured 52%. Initial optimism on the part of opposition groups was bolstered when unofficial exit polls showed that some of the groups received 6% of the vote, the local chief of the opposition party conceded that his party would not gather the required 5% in order to secure Parliamentary seats.

Obviously, this has raised a few eyebrows throughout several independent election observing organizations and international observers. In most cases, technical details prevented true opposition candidates from running. One party was still running with the assassinated Boris Nemtsov as the candidate. Another was barred from entry due to the candidate, Alexei Navalny, a prominent dissident, being under house arrest serving a prison sentence for an embezzlement case, which Navalny alleges is an entirely spurious accusation.

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News Briefs:

  • The Russian navy has engaged in a large weapons demonstration in the Caspian Sea, where 15 warships carried out successful strikes at proxy surface strikes using cruise missiles. The ships set out from ports in the Astrakhan region, and as many as 20 warships are expected to take part in the ongoing exercises, which are thought to be a show of strength to ensure other Caspian littoral states don’t attempt to develop any joint projects without Russia’s permission.
  • Russian oil company Lukoil has reached a milestone in Uzbek gas production, when today it produced 30 BCM of natural gas, mostly from the Khauzak-Shady field in Bukhara. Commercial production on the field began in 2007, new areas opened in 2011, and this year more expansion is expected. Uzbekistan has not been typically the target of new gas exploration, as this has usually been Turkmenistan. However, Turkmenistan’s fields are all state-owned and operated, unlike Uzbekistan, which has allowed Russian oil and gas companies to operate there.
  • BP announced it will suspend operations on a key Caspian oil rig, Chirag, offshore of Azerbaijan to perform maintenance, and it will be suspended throughout the following quarter. BP had suspended maintenance at another major oil platform in the Caspian Sea, West Azeri, last May, which lasted roughly 22 days. Daily oil output from Azerbaijan fell, strangely enough, to the levels anticipated and announced by OPEC as well as the US Energy Information Agency (EIA).
  • Pakistan has blamed Afghanistan for the assault on its Peshawar air base, a somewhat ironic reversal of the numerous statements made by previous President Hamid Karzai, who would routinely blame Pakistani military and intelligence units for attacks along the border zones in Pashtunistan. Earlier today, gunmen stormed the airbase outside Peshawar, which triggered a gunfight. The Pakistani spokesman later issued a correction, saying he did not think the Afghan government was involved in the attack, only that the aggressors came from the Afghan border.

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