Voters unsure ehead of Moscow elections
Moscow voters say their main concerns are traffic
congestion, polluted air, an influx of dark-skinned migrant
workers and rising housing expenses.
But many are unaware of which political parties
are promising to tackle those issues if elected to the City
Duma on Sunday. Voters say they will pick a party based on its
list of candidates, not on its platform of pre-election promises.
That suggests the big winner will be United
Russia, whose top candidate is the city's tremendously popular
mayor, Yury Luzhkov.
"To be honest, I don't like the party
itself, but under Luzhkov the city has improved, and I want
to keep things the way they are," said Oleg Sechin, 33,
a manager for a local software company.
In-depth interviews with 15 voting-age residents
over the past two weeks found that United Russia was the clear
favorite thanks to Luzhkov. People interviewed freely acknowledged
that they would vote on personality rather than ideology, saying
they had little idea about what United Russia would deliver.
Some voters expressed hope that a Duma dominated
by United Russia would be best suited to work with the Mayor's
Office to resolve their everyday problems.
Ilyas Mustayev, a retired surgeon, said a Duma
filled with Luzhkov loyalists would be able to ease the traffic
jams that snarl the streets. "As a motorist, I am mostly
concerned about traffic jams and the overall poor organization
of traffic," Mustayev said.
Some 3 million vehicles are registered with
the traffic police in Moscow, and a Greenpeace report this year
estimated that 200,000 more cars are joining the traffic on
the streets every year.
Sechin also fretted about the traffic, but
questioned whether United Russia was promising a solution. He
said that even though party billboard ads blanketed the city
during the campaign, he still did not know anything about the
party program. "They covered Moscow with their billboards
with their stupid slogans that don't mean anything to me, but
I still decided to cast my ballot for Luzhkov," Sechin
Some United Russia billboards read, "We
Love Moscow, We Rely on Ourselves, We Are Proud of Russia!"
while others show Luzhkov with a City Duma candidate and read,
"We'll Preserve Moscow Together."
Echoing comments by many interviewees, Sechin
said he trusted Luzhkov and would like him to stay in office
after his term ends in 2007. Luzhkov, who co-heads United Russia,
has said he would not seek to remain in office after 2007. He
also has indicated that he would not take a seat in the city
"Moscow desperately needs a law under
which industrial facilities that pollute the city would be moved
outside the city limits," Mustayev said.
Alina Kudrina, 31, a mother playing with her
2-year-old daughter, Vera, on a playground in southwestern Moscow,
also said tough measures should be taken against factories.
"God knows what kind of air we breathe here. I guess we
need a law that would ban factories from polluting the air,"
However, she did not know until a reporter
told her that two parties running for the Duma were promising
to address pollution. The new Green party is running as part
of the Yabloko ticket, while the Russian Ecological Party of
the Green is running as a separate party.
Maxim Doroshenko, a physicist, said life in
the city had improved since Luzhkov became mayor in 1992, but
it had become very difficult for the average Muscovite to buy
"On the one hand, it is almost impossible
to buy an apartment in Moscow -- prices are too high. But on
the other hand, construction companies are building all over
the city. We don't have anymore courtyards or space left for
children to play in," Doroshenko said.