Install

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

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Despite Enticements, Krasnodar Turnout Too Low

KHUTOR LENINA, Southern Russia -- The only reason Raisa Danilovna, 65, participated in Krasnodar's gubernatorial elections Sunday was to pick up some cheap sausage on the way out of the polling booth.


"The last time I bought sausage was when we came to vote for Zyuganov this summer," the retired kindergarten teacher said.


"They have some fresh bread. I bought half a kilodof sweets for the grandchildren."


Resorting to a tactic from Soviet times, when election day was considered a holiday and polling stations blasted patriotic songs and offered free cake and juice, polling stations across the Krasnodar region turned into bargain produce stores last weekend.


The aim was to entice voters to break the 50 percent turnout needed to make the elections valid, but cheap sausage was apparently not enough. Only 45 percent of eligible voters came to cast their ballots.


Krasnodar will now hold fresh elections in three months, meaning that candidates will have to collect signatures of support all over again in order to re-register.


The invalid poll hurt communist challenger Nikolai Kondratenko, who was well ahead of the incumbent, former Nationalities Minister and former Kremlin chief of staff Nikolai Yegorov, 57 to 25 percent.


Valery Krokhmal, a wealthy farmer who ran as an independent but was officially endorsed late in the campaign by Russia's recently sacked security chief, Alexander Lebed, finished third. Krokhmal collected just 8 percent of the vote.


In the tally of who -- the Yeltsin administration or its communist and nationalist opponents -- gains more support in the Federation Council, Krasnodar will offer a clear addition to neither side even after a valid result has been achieved.


Yegorov, the incumbent, is out of favor in the Kremlin and Kondratenko, the communist, is said to have received help from the government for his campaign.


While Yegorov will remain governor of Krasnodar until a valid election is held, NTV Independent Television said he will already lose his seat in the Federation Council.


Voters in Khutor Lenina, a hamlet about 50 kilometers east of Krasnodar, and other farm settlements across the Black Earth region spoke favorably of the communist challenger.


But few seemed convinced that casting a ballot would affect their livelihood.


"I voted for Kondratenko," Raisa Danilovna said. "But we have voted so many times by now and nothing has changed. My pension is still useless."


Sensing voter apathy might become a factor, regional election committee chairman Sergei Danilenko appeared on local television several times Sunday to explain that holding elections is a costly affair and a second vote would seriously drain the winter coffers.


"Four new houses could be built and 10 hospitals and clinics could be stocked with new equipment if we don't have to vote a second time," Danilenko explained to the public in his regularly televised message. But to no avail.