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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'None of the Above' Looks Best to Some

CHASTOOSTROVSKOYE, Western Siberia -- A concert piano tinkled in the background and young girls sang folk songs at the official election concert, but the civic-minded mood music was lost on Valentina Lebshenko.

"All the candidates say you must vote, you're deciding your fate. But then they sling mud at each other, and everyone looks like a thief," said Lebshenko, a pensioner forced to get by on 400 rubles ($14) a month.

"I don't believe in anyone anymore. I don't believe that anything will be done What will be will be," she said. Her vote was for "none of the above," which did not come to her naturally.

Nationally, on turnout of about 62 percent, "none" scored 3.36 percent of the vote - a particularly impressive showing given that in places like Chastoostrovskoye, a village 72 kilometers from Krasnoyarsk, voters had to brave temperatures of minus 20 degrees Celsius to cast a frankly pointless ballot.

More Russians voted for "none of the above" than, for example, for the Stalinists (2.24 percent), the Women of Russia (2.05 percent) or Our Home Is Russia (1.21 percent).

Election officials said Monday that as many as a half-dozen single-mandate candidates might have lost to "none," but only a few cases were definitive.

In one Murmansk district where Vladimir Zhirinovsky's sister was running, "none" polled 36.44 percent. In two Yekaterinburg precincts, "none" won with 30 percent and 24 percent.

In St. Petersburg, "none" polled 15.39 percent of a district to defeat Yabloko candidate Anatoly Golov, who polled 14.87 percent; "none" also won in a precinct of the Leningrad region, which surrounds but does not include Petersburg. About 13 percent of Petersburgers, city-wide, voted for "none."

"None" was also running at least third in every Krasnoyarsk district, with at least 10 percent of the vote in each.

"None" was racing former Fuel and Energy Minister Sergei Generalov for the right to represent a district in the Achinsk region of Krasnoyarsk. With 90 percent of the votes counted Monday night, Generalov was trailing the "none" vote by less than a percentage point.

In another Krasnoyarsk district, local television chief Alexander Klyukin was leading with 24.80 percent of the vote, followed by "none" with 21.58 percent.

Why was rejecting all so popular in Krasnoyarsk? In part, because a campaign backing the "none" option was organized by would-be candidate Anatoly Bykov - who heads KrAZ, the Krasnoyarsk Aluminium Plant.

Bykov is under arrest in Hungary and awaiting extradition to Russia on charges of money laundering and murder; he urged voters to protest his detention and vote against all.