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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

United Russia Wins Big in Belgorod Vote

Itar-TassBelgorod Governor Yevgeny Savchenko
United Russia grabbed 53 percent of the vote in Belgorod legislative elections, leaving other parties in the dust as voters apparently recoiled at the involvement of a company controlled by Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov's wife in the race.

United Russia's victory in Sunday's vote was a gain of 20 percentage points from the 33 percent it claimed in State Duma elections in 2003, the Central Elections Commission said. The Communist Party placed second, with 18.5 percent, a gain of 2.5 percentage points from 2003.

The "against all" option on the ballot collected 7.1 percent, just ahead of the 6.75 percent garnered by the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party.

LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky denounced the results as falsified, Interfax reported. "We know that every second resident voted for LDPR. These were not elections but a comedy, a farce," said Zhirinovsky, who ran against Belgorod Governor Yevgeny Savchenko for the post in 1999.

Central Election Commission chief Alexander Veshnyakov declared the elections fair. He also noted that turnout was 57 percent, 14 percent higher than the last local legislative elections.

Candidates ran for the regional legislature in party lists as well as single-mandate districts. Interfax reported that United Russia would get about 70 seats, the Communists would get four seats and LDPR would get two seats.

LDPR went into the vote with the support of Inteko, the Moscow-based company controlled by Luzhkov's wife, Yelena Baturina. Inteko is embroiled in a very public dispute with Savchenko, who ran at the top of the United Russia ticket in the elections.

"The conflict between the regional administration and Inteko played a big role in the election campaign," said Alexei Titkov, an analyst with the Institute of Regional Studies. "The governor is very popular in the region, while LDPR was perceived as being a pro-Moscow party."

The dispute is connected to 100,000 hectares of farmland that Inteko has bought in the region since 2003. Inteko has not been able to register ownership rights for 70,000 hectares and has accused Savchenko of being to blame for its difficulties.

Apparently in an attempt to defend its interests in the region, Inteko had several employees run as LDPR candidates.

The regional elections commission in September refused to register the list over a technicality, but the Supreme Court on Friday overturned the decision.

Earlier last week, two Inteko employees were beaten in separate attacks that the company has linked to the land dispute and the elections. One of them, a lawyer, later died.

Inteko has urged Putin to dismiss Savchenko.

However, "in most regions, governors do what they want, and Belgorod is no exception," said Yury Korgunyuk, an analyst with the Indem think tank. "Savchenko has the same power in Belgorod that Luzhkov has in Moscow."

Luzhkov is a leader of United Russia.

Korgunyuk said the Belgorod results reflected what voters thought about Moscow. "People thought, 'What does Moscow want in our region?' This is why many voted for United Russia and for the popular Savchenko," he said.

Savchenko was made governor by presidential appointment in 1993. He received more than 50 percent of the vote to win election over Zhirinovsky in 1999, and he was re-elected in May 2003 with 61 percent of the vote.

In other elections on Sunday, Udmurtia voters picked municipal council members for 311 new districts. The elections are part of a self-rule reform that creates a two-tier system of municipal government that should provide a rigid delineation of powers among federal, regional and local authorities.

In the city of Nizhny Novgorod, incumbent Mayor Vadim Bulavinov collected more than 70 percent of the vote for a new term, while Vladimir incumbent Mayor Alexander Rybakov also won re-election, by about 60 percent.