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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Reputed Urals Gang Fails in Election Bid

The Uralmash Public and Political Union, a reputed organized crime front, went into the Dec. 19 State Duma elections looking like a powerful contender. But "none of the above" instead triumphed over Uralmash boss Alexander Khabarov.

Khabarov, who first ran for the Duma in 1993, lost again this time despite support from the Sverdlovsk region's powerful governor, Eduard Rossel, and an aggressive public relations campaign.

Last fall, it seemed that the Uralmash Public and Political Union, which took its name from the huge heavy machinery works located in Yekaterinburg's Ordzhonikindze district, had found a great electoral tool. In August, a group of activists associated with the group launched an anti-narcotics campaign that was popular in the city.

The campaign against drugs, however, was not enough. Khabarov came in third, with 19.8 percent of the vote, behind City Duma Deputy Nadezhda Golubkova, who beat him by one percentage point. But both came in behind "none of the above," which received 26 percent.

"None of the above" also won in Yekaterinburg's Verkh-Iset district, defeating businessman Igor Kovpak, another Rossel prot?g? - and given that only eight single-mandate districts nationwide were won by "none of the above," some Yekaterinburg officials are in a gloomy mood.

"The elections have failed," said Alexander Shmelyov, a spokesman for the Sverdlovsk regional electoral commission. He added, however, that they were successful in the five other Sverdlovsk region districts.

A spokesman for the Uralmash Public and Political Union, meanwhile, said the results were predictable "There is nothing extraordinary here," said Dmitry Krasyuk. "Our region is the most exhausted by elections in Russia."

Krasyuk also saw a silver lining in Khabarov's defeat.

"The number of people who support him is growing. Last time, 37,000 people voted for him, this time it was over 54,000," he said.

Yekaterinburg residents have trudged to the polls six times already this year - for governor last August, and in four separate rounds of voting for the City Duma.

Elections for mayor of Yekaterinburg were also held on Dec. 19. Arkady Chernetsky, the incumbent mayor and Rossel's archenemy, won re-election with 53 percent of the vote. According to Karasyuk, most voters considered the Duma elections "secondary" and ticked off "none of the above" only because they happened to be at the polling stations to choose a mayor.

Rustam Gubin, a journalist with Sverdlovsk regional television, said the strong showing for "none of the above" was a reaction to a dirty political campaign.

"It's complete indifference and mistrust," he said. "In the city people are very sensitive to 'black PR,' and when they see candidates smearing each other with dirt, they don't vote for either of them."