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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kremlin Sweeps 2 Regional Elections

The Kremlin gained ground on its nationalist and Communist opposition over the weekend in the battle for control of the Federation Council when incumbents swept to victory in two of six regional gubernatorial elections held Sunday.

But the victories in the Chita Oblast on the Chinese border and the Khanty Mansiisky autonomous region in western Siberia were dimmed by the failure of four other elections to produce a result.

In the Kaluga region in central Russia, in the Stavropol region in the south, and in the Aginsky Buryatsky autonomous region in Siberia, none of the gubernatorial candidates received the 50-percent share of the vote needed to claim victory.

Runoff elections will be held in all three regions later in the autumn, and Communist candidates are currently in the lead in two of them.

In the Krasnodar Krai, the local election was declared invalid because voters turned out in insufficient numbers. Just over 43 percent turned out, in line with the other regions, where turnouts were all below 50 percent.

But under a local law in Krasnodar, 50 percent turnout is required for elections to be valid, whereas most regions set a 25-percent turnout minimum.

The weekend results brought to nine the number of incumbents, largely Kremlin appointees, who have won a seat in the Federation Council and another term at the head of their regions. The nationalist and Communist opposition has knocked off the pro-Kremlin candidate in only five regions.

Historic gubernatorial elections are scheduled in 52 of Russia's 89 regions this autumn, the winners of which automatically become members of the upper house. After Communist Party boss Gennady Zyuganov's defeat this summer, the party declared it would retake power in the regions.

Communist hopefuls led the field in three of Sunday's polls, even though the results of the contests are not final.

In the Krasnodar Krai, although low turnout made the vote invalid, Communist Nikolai Kondratenko beat incumbent Nikolai Yegorov, Yeltsin's former chief of staff, 57 percent to 25 percent.

In the Stavropol Krai, which backed Zyuganov solidly for president, Communist candidate Alexander Chernogorov, now a State Duma deputy, is leading confidently with 47 percent of the vote going into the second-round runoff, outstripping incumbent Pyotr Marchenko with 37.6 percent.

Communist challenger Valery Sudarenkov is also looking good for the runoff in the Kaluga Oblast, where his 46.5 percent of the vote exceeded the 39.4 percent tallied by incumbent Oleg Savchenko.

The Kremlin responded with calm confidence to the elections and to low voter interest. Alexander Kazakov, first deputy to current presidential chief of staff Anatoly Chubais, said Monday that a higher turnout for regional elections could "hardly be expected."

"People are tired of elections, as yesterday's results bore out. For the first time in this country, the vote was declared invalid because of low turnout," he said. "Next time, this tendency will be strengthened."

Kazakov said Yeltsin lost 32 of Russia's 89 regions in the presidential race. Seventeen of these 32 regions will choose their next governor before year's end, and pro-Kremlin candidates have "a real chance of victory" in all but eight of them, he said.