[home page][map of the server][news of the server][forums][publications][Yabloko's Views]

Izvestia, July 22, 2003

Housing and Utilities Elections
Russian Regions Vote for a Taming of Housing and Utilities Managers

By Natalia Ratiani

Today Russian voters are more concerned about the performance of the housing and utilities services rather than democratic liberties, and they will be more eager to vote for parties that propose a way out of the vicious circle in housing and utilities reform. Such a conclusion can be drawn from the recently published report by the Association of Regional Sociological Centres based on interregional electoral monitoring.

Sociologists studied the electoral preferences of the Russian citizens, based on 20 regions in all seven federal districts of the Russian Federation. Over 10,000 respondents did not conceal their party preferences from the sociologists. Most of them realistically assess the chances of "their" party in overcoming a five per cent barrier at the State Duma elections.

Voters from Nadym, Yaroslavl, Khabarovsk, Tula, Krasnodar, Veliky Novgorod, Ulianovsk, and Omsk (i.e. over 70% of the polled) stated that they would participate in the voting. The electoral fever has not yet affected both the capitals, Saratov, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, Nizhni Novgorod, Kazan, and Kaliningrad, where the electorate turned out to be less active. According to the survey, 15% of the residents of the enclave have not thought about the coming elections at all, and about 11% are unlikely to vote; whereas 11% hesitated in decision-making on their December trip to electoral booths (total 37%). However, 36% of the residents of Kaliningrad region stated their intention to participate in the voting.

However, residents of Kaliningrad displayed more preference for United Russia (41%) and the Communist Party (30%); whereas pro-Western Yabloko and the the Union of Right-Wing Forces speaking in favour of enhanced orientation of the region towards Western Europe accumulated respectively 13% and 15% enemies and 22% and 20% of supporters.

Whose Memory is Better

In general, the rating of party preferences in the cities polled is topped by United Russia. However, less than 15% of the polled in St. Petersburg stated their preference for this party. And only Nizhni Novgorod and Novosibirsk, the regions of the leaders of the right-wing forces Sergei Kiriyenko and Boris Nemtsov give their hearts to communists. Defence industry-oriented, Kaliningrad, Tula, and Samara choose communists and Zhirinovsky's liberal democrats. Residents of Yekaterinburg, Perm, and Kazan give their preference to the Union of Right-Wing Forces and Yabloko. The Pensioners' Party is unusually popular with the residents of these particular cities. Probably the roots of this lie in the demographic profile of the rapidly ageing large cities.

Judging the opinion polls, our compatriots have not changed their political preferences since the last election. However, those who voted for, say, the Yabloko party have better recollections of their choice and the motives for this choice than Russians who voted for one of the parties of power. The ideas of the regional electorate about the left and right-wing considerably differ from how the parties or their ideologists position themselves in the political Olympus of the capital. For example, [Zhirinovsky's] LDPR, which has long ceased being an opposition party, is still considered such a party in the regions.

As for the political leaders, the President of Russia Vladimir Putin clearly tops the rating - in a hypothetical election the majority of the electorate in the Russian regions would have voted for Putin (e.g., 85% of votes from the supporters of the United Russia, 72% from the Union of Right-Wing Forces, 73% from the People's Party, and 78% from Seleznyov's Party [of the
Russian Revival]). Only the communist electorate loyally sticks to Gennadi Zyuganov (43%). According to sociologists, Putin's rating in the electorates of the Yabloko and LDPR parties remains fairly low: 50% of pro-Yabloko voters are ready to give their votes for Putin and 33% for Yavlinsky; 37% of Vladimir Zhirinovsky's followers remain loyal to their party leader
and 47% will vote for Putin.

However, it is too early for United Russia that positions itself as the President's party to celebrate total victory in the region. Even though it is one of the best known parties in the regions, only 18% of respondents are ready to vote both for the President and United Russia.

The Herd Does Not Lag Behind

Russian voters are virtually unanimous when asked to list three most important problems that their regions are facing now. The electorate is particularly concerned about the situation in the housing and utilities sector: 42% of the population are enraged by high prices for housing and utilities services and the inadequacy of the poor services. Impoverishment (the problem mentioned in the presidential Address to the Federation subject) ranks second (40%). Third place is given to the poor infrastructure in cities and rural areas (31%) - in other words this means again the same housing and utilities services sector. It is quite indicative that in some regions (Arkhangelsk, Voronezh, Tula, Rostov-on-Don, Saratov, Omsk, Khabarovsk and Nizhni Novgorod) the problem of the housing and utilities sector is perceived as a more acute problem, even compared to the problem of 'material and financial straits', states Igor Zadorin, General Director of the CIRKON Research Group that managed the whole project.

It should also be noted that St. Petersburg ,that has recently considerably repaired its facade in connection with the anniversary, is listed among the three cities most dissatisfied with their municipal infrastructure.

However, when answering the question about the most acute nationwide problem, polled citizens steadily mention low living standards.

According to CIRKON experts, such a paradox emerges because the federal mass media do not pay much attention to the problem of the development of efficient utilities services throughout Russia in general. "That is why the voter does not realise that the individual problem of his area has long ago shifted to the agenda of the whole of Russia," says Zadorin.

Thus, the party that will promptly explain to its electorate that the housing and utilities sector problem has long ago surpassed the margins of the notion "my yard and my house" can count on additional votes. As our electorate is lazy, it prefers slogans and does not read party programmes and likes a situation where everything has been digested for him. In addition the population in most of the polled regions is still inclined to think that Russia should be a state with a regulated economy, strong social policies and the same incomes for all citizens.

Here we would like to remind the reader of a funny story from our recent socialist past, when a lecturer answers a question as to why our cattle-breeding is lagging behind: "We are advancing towards communism in leaps and boudns, and the cattle simply cannot keep up." And the housing and utilities sector does not keep the pace with the burgeoning development of Russian democracy, whose construction is the focus of attention for most Russian parties.


See also:

State Duma Elections 2003

Housing and Utilities Sector Reform

Izvestia, July 22, 2003

[home page][map of the server][news of the server][forums][publications][Yabloko's Views]

Project Director: Vyacheslav Erohin e-mail: admin@yabloko.ru Director: Olga Radayeva, e-mail: english@yabloko.ru
Administrator: Vlad Smirnov, e-mail: vladislav.smirnov@yabloko.ru