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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Reformers Lose Out In Petersburg Poll

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- Voters in Russia's second city have elected political unknowns and centrists over well-known reformers in a second round of local elections, according to poll results released Tuesday.


Sunday's elections to the City Assembly attracted a bare 10 percent of the 3.6 million registered voters, who demonstrated their mistrust for reform by returning a mix of conservatives and independents who are mostly cool toward reform.


The resulting assembly is closer to centrist parties such as Civic Union than to the reformist Russia's Choice and could act as a brake on economic reform in a city that touts itself as Russia's privatization capital.


The assembly is, however, likely to be crippled from the outset: Sunday's second round took place only in those districts in which more than 25 percent of the electorate voted in a first round two weeks ago.


The first round was an electoral disaster, barely attracting the necessary 25 percent of registered voter, and this only after Mayor Anatoly Sobchak threw the polls open for an extra day and extended the franchise to students and soldiers temorarily based in St. Petersburg.


Twenty-six of the 50 individual districts -- one for each assembly seat -- failed to gather the required percentage, and will be represented by empty seats in the assembly. As a result, the remaining 24 deputies will never be able to muster a quorum of 34.


Most voters knew this before the second round of voting Sunday, and so stayed home, with only the older generation -- drilled in Soviet times to cast their vote -- turning out in substantial numbers.


"The vast majority of voters were from the older generation," said Rita Malova, an Election Commission spokeswoman.


"They were disciplined to vote earlier and now they are used to it. There were practically no young people and no students."


Sunday, many of St. Petersburg's best known public figures participated in the poll, but only one was elected: Vice Mayor Vyacheslav Shcherbakov, a retired naval admiral who has fought bitterly with Mayor Anatoly Sobchak, a Western-oriented reformer.


Because Shcherbakov's military background and views are similar to those of former Russian Vice President Alexander Rutskoi, he is locally known as "our Rutskoi."


While democrats, reformers and well-known politicians had done well in the first round -- when their opposition was spread among dozens of other candidates and parties -- few survived direct runoffs in the second round.


Of the 24 deputies, 11 ran as independents. Few have expressed strong support for economic reform.


Beloved City, headed by Shcherbakov, took five seats.


The All Petersburg and Democratic Union of Petersburg -- both reform and business oriented parties -- each took three seats.


The other two seats went to the obscure parties Our City, Our Home and the Union for Progress.