Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Money Rules Russian Elections

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Money Rules Russian Elections

Article excerpt

FREE BOOZE AND vegetables will not be allowed in Russia's parliamentary campaigns running up to the Dec. 17 election, the Central Election Commission says.

But its report released Thursday had nary a word about how some of the top parties are paying for so much TV time or allowing their candidates to fly around the country on corporate jets.

Getting to the bottom of campaign financing in Russia's parliamentary ballot is no easy matter because Soviet-style secrecy lingers and the tradition of free elections is very young.

Although recent polls show that many Russians are worried about the accuracy of the election results, they do not appear overly concerned by any campaign fraud.

Some interviewed on a recent TV program, called "Money and the Elections," said they thought it was cheap to buy a deputy already in office and that they were sure some of the parties cheated.

Grigory Yavlinsky, a leading reformer whose Yabloko bloc is expected to do well on Dec. 17, recently said that no politician had the money for a clean campaign and many had sold out to people with money.

The election commission has turned up some violations that could lead to the exclusion of at least several of the more than 8,000 candidates running for seats in the Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament.

Alexander Ivanchenko, deputy chairman of the commission, said at a news conference Thursday: "In the Moscow region, in the Irkutsk region (western Siberia), it's a question of candidates (giving) out alcoholic drinks and vegetables. Those are things of real value."

The commission also is looking into campaign financing, and there are some important violations, mainly concerning individual candidates. But Ivanchenko refused to provide any details.

According to Russian campaign rules, each of the 43 parties running is allowed to spend 13 billion rubles, the equivalent of 250,000 times the minimum wage, or about $3 million. …

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