Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Communist Party Scores Big Win in Local Poll

The Communist Party of Russia has won a landslide victory in elections to the local legislature of Volgograd, news agencies reported Monday, giving a clear and timely signal of the party's electoral strength ahead of December's parliamentary polls.

Interfax, citing preliminary results from the weekend elections, said the Communists had won 20 of 24 seats in Volgograd, a city of 2.6 million some 900 kilometers southeast of Moscow, which was once known as Stalingrad. Itar-Tass reported that the Communists had won fully 22 of the 24 seats.

In either case the vote, the latest of several local elections won convincingly by the Communists, indicates that they will be a force to reckon with at the national polls on Dec. 17.

Some analysts, however, warned against treating Volgograd as representative.

"This is mostly the factory vote, and the Communists have immense control there," said Leonid Smirnyagin, who specializes in regional studies at President Boris Yeltsin's analytical center. "But I don't think the Volgograd vote is going to set the weather for December: Volgograd is unique in that it's a heavily industrial city, practically without an intellectual community."

This is not the first sweep the Communists have enjoyed in local elections this year, however. Their most impressive success to date came in the hometown of the party's leader Gennady Zyuganov -- Oryol in Central Russia. There, the Communists won 10 seats of 11.

Both Oryol and Volgograd are part of what Zyuganov himself calls "the Red Belt" -- impoverished areas reliant on agriculture or industries devoted to the military sector where workers now are hardest hit by unemployment and salary arrears.

But the Communists have dates in the parliamentary polls. Only 200,000 signatures are required for a party to be put on the ballot, but the Communists, after submitting 240,000 signatures to the Central Election Commission, have continued canvassing to mobilize their voters.

No other party has even submitted its backers' signatures for examination yet.

Liberal analysts have said that a low turnout -- in Volgograd, only 39 percent of the registered voters came to the polls, according to Interfax -- is almost always in favor of the Communists.

Elderly people, nostalgic for the glory days of the Soviet Union, are more disciplined voters than the young, enterprising people whom liberals see as their electorate.

In the Duma election, 50 percent of the voters have to come to the polls for the results to be valid.

But in regions like Volgograd, the Communists are going to be strong regardless of the turnout figure.

Volgograd is among seven regions where the Communists have already registered candidates in single-mandate constituencies, having collected the required number of signatures for their candidates before any other party.

In Volgograd, the party's candidate is Alevtina Aparina, an orthodox Communist whose views are to the left of Zyuganov's moderate social-democratic stand.

Meanwhile, according to Interfax, Yury Chekhov, an independent candidate, won the mayoral election in Volgograd. There had been no Communists among contenders in the election.

Chekhov declared himself an independent shortly before the election, after leaving Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's electoral bloc, Our Home Is Russia, which has fared poorly in local polls.