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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 said.

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 legislature.

"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," she said.

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 an apartment.

"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.

Source: The Moscow Times

Disclaimer - The contents of my news section are taken from Russian sources and are included here for information purposes only. By including this information I hope to give readers an insight into Russian life. I am in no way endorsing, agreeing or supporting any views contained within.

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