Moscow vote seen as success for both Kremlin, opposition

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Sergei SobyaninImage source, Reuters
Image caption,
Sergei Sobyanin is an ally of President Vladimir Putin

Russia's media believe both pro-government and opposition forces can claim success in what many see as the country's first truly competitive elections in many years.

Many commentators believe that while the Putin-backed incumbent, Sergei Sobyanin, may have won the mayoral election in Moscow, with 51%, leading opponent and anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny got an impressive result with 27%.

State-owned and pro-government media congratulate the authorities on what they depict as a transparent and fair election, although opposition commentators complain that some irregularities took place.

'Clean vote'

State-owned Channel One TV pointed out that the vote was "being described as the most open and honest ever".

"This election is characterised by transparency, fairness, competitiveness," reads a front-page headline in government-owned paper Rossiyskaya Gazeta. The daily praises Mr Sobyanin's campaign and notes that "he was the one who called on deputies of local government bodies to help Alexei Navalny to overcome the municipal barrier, which he would have never surmounted on his own".

Pro-government tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda takes a stab at opposition supporters. "Guys, you wanted fairness, you were demanding a fair election and now you don't want to accept the results? You want the authorities to lie, but in your favour. Nope!" writes Aleksandr Grishin.

Mass-market tabloid Tvoy Den even replaces its traditional page-three naked girl spread with a photo of Mr Sobyanin under the headline "Clean victory".

Pro-government daily Izvestiya quotes a source in the governing United Russia party as saying that Mr Navalny's election result would extinguish the appetite for protest.

"Everyone was expecting 20% and was ready to protest if the result would be lower. But he got a lot more. What is there to protest against now?" the source told the paper.

Newspapers less sympathetic to the authorities say Alexei Navalny's second place in the Moscow mayoral election is a significant step forward for the opposition.

"More than 27% of Muscovites voted for Navalny" is the top story on the website of business daily Vedomosti, while pundit Alexei Chesnakov told the paper that the blogger had put the official, or "systemic", opposition in parliament to shame.

"For Navalny, this is a huge success - it is impossible to jail such a politician," another analyst, Igor Bunin predicts, referring to an appeal against Mr Navalny's five-year jail sentence for embezzlement that is due to be heard at the end of the month.

"Navalny has won a moral victory," declares political scientist Alexander Kynev on the liberal news website "It is completely obvious that Mr Sobyanin's so-called triumph is purely based on voting by groups of voters who are under the authorities' control - above all, through absentee ballots."

'Competition is back'

Liberal daily Novyye Izvestiya, however, gave the election a back-handed compliment of sorts, writing sarcastically that "no heinous violations like those registered during the 2011 parliamentary election were observed at Moscow polling stations this time around".

Centrist daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta went even further, declaring: "Competitive elections are back in Russia".

For observer Mikhail Rostovsky, though, Mr Navalny's supporters share some of the blame for their candidate coming second. Writing in the popular daily Moskovskiy Komsomolets, he accuses them of being childish and irreconcilable throughout the election campaign. "Against this background, the incumbent authorities become the safest choice," Rostovsky adds.

Speaking on Kommersant FM radio - owned by an influential business daily - political analyst Alexei Vlasov lamented the low turnout of 32%, saying that the "more than 60% of those who didn't come to the election at all" were the cause of Mr Navalny's second place in Moscow.

He added, however, that this was a "good result for Sobyanin, from a career point of view... particularly given that most experts acknowledge that administrative levers were used very little, if at all, in this election".

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