Lyosha 9%

In Moscow’s mayoral election, 8.7% of the city’s voters went to the polls and supported Alexei Navalny, just over 630,000 people out of roughly 7.25 million eligible voters. Another way of putting it is that 91.3% of Moscow’s voters rejected Navalny, either by staying home or actually voting for somebody else.

So Navalny is Lyosha 9%.

Having seen that there were only 630,000 Muscovites willing to support Navalny has two devastating implications for his protest movement. First, it shows that the number of protesters he brought to the streets, never more than 100,000, was a tiny fraction of those who shared his views in Moscow. On the other hand, It also shows that Navalny’s promise to put 1 million supporters on the streets was always pure poppycock.

As we previously reported, Navalny’s pre-election polling showed that his negatives were significantly higher than his positives (more respondents said they definitely would not vote for him than said they would do so), and his post-election polling showed that his campaign did not have any affect at all on either public support for Vladimir Putin or for a national campaign by Navalny.

Pre-election polling had also clearly shown that only ten percent of all Moscow voters supported Navalny at most.  His 8.7% tally on election day was perfectly consistent with the polling, with a small fraction of his active supporters choosing to stay at home on election day in a predictable manner (in fact, but for a frenzied last-minute get-out-the-vote push by Navalny’s forces, the number would have been a bit higher).

Navalny’s bid for Moscow mayor ended in disastrous failure, just as we predicted prior to the election. It was confirmed that Navalny does not even have double-digit support within his own bastion of strength, Moscow, and it was confirmed that he simply does not exist as a national politician.  On the other hand. Navalny’s participation in the race permitted the Kremlin to fully legitimize the Moscow administration it has hand-picked, and show that it is not afraid of meeting Navalny on the electoral battlefield.  This works to legitimize Navalny’s conviction as well.

In short, Navalny played right into the Kremlin’s hands and walked into an electoral meat grinder, ending for all practical purposes his ability to claim Russia has a significant opposition movement and he leads it.  The only question now is whether Lyosha 9% will cling to power the same way Lenin did after he heads to prison, causing the so-called movement to degenerate further into disarray, or whether he will act like a patriot and statesman and pass the baton to someone who may fare better.

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Comparing Levada to Reality on Moscow Mayor Poll

In its poll published right before the election for Moscow Mayor (Russian-language link), the country’s most-respected pollster Levada reported that 52% of Moscow voters had told it they planned to come out on election day and cast their ballot (this number was clearly hedged, however, since more than half of it was comprised by people who said it was only “very likely” that they’d vote, not sure).

Moscow has roughly 7.25 million eligible voters. Thus, Levada was indicating that up to  3.77 million Muscovites might be at the polls on election day.  Of those, Levada reported that 18% would vote for Alexei Navalny, or in other words that Navalny would collect about 678,600 votes.  By contrast, Levada reported, 58% would support incumbent Sergei Sobyanin, meaning the latter would rake in about 2,186,600 votes.  Levada’s data overstated the number of votes Navalny would get on election day (and the same for Sobyanin).

On election day, nauseatingly huge numbers of Muscovites stayed at home, far more than Levada’s data imagined could occur. This reduced the number of votes collected by all candidates, but the incumbent was affected most dramatically.

Navalny actually got only 632,697 votes for mayor, 45,903 (or 7%) less than Levada had predicted.  But Sobyanin suffered far more from the weak turnout, actually getting only 1,193,178 votes, roughly a stunning 992,822 (or 45%) less than Levada had predicted.  Sobyanin ended up with just over 51% of the total and Navalny with just over 27% because Navalny brought a larger percentage of his supporters to the polls than Sobyanin did.  It’s telling that Sobyanin could take this massive hit and still crush Navalny by such a wide margin.

Only 2,286,972 valid ballots were received on election day, roughly 1.5 million less than Levada’s data had shown there might be.  In other words, only 31% of Moscow voters actually cast ballots on election day, vastly fewer than Levada had suggested might do so.

So Levada was almost exactly right about the number of votes Navalny would get on election day, but it vastly overestimated the number of votes that would be cast and it failed to recognize that the vast majority of voters who would stay at home would be Sobyanin voters.  Levada said Navalny would get a fifth of half of the Moscow electorate to support him, but he ended up with less than third of less than a third of all Moscow voters supporting him.  However, Levada never asked the large group of potential voters who said they were very likely to vote but not sure who they planned to vote for. Hence, it’s not possible to claim that Levada was “wrong” about turnout. They clearly said the turnout figure was not guarantied, and they did not attempt to project what would happen if voters were overestimated their probability of going to the polls.

The low turnout for Sobyanin  was eminently predictable, however.   Given that Levada had predicted that Navalny, Sobyanin’s closest competitor, would lose in a massive forty-point landslide of over 1.5 million votes, many Sobyanin supporters could quite foreseeably have decided there was no need to bother voting.   Levada’s polling was actually quite helpful to Navalny, in other words, because it strongly encouraged Sobyanin to be overconfident and, like the famous hare who raced the tortoise, to slack off on his efforts to bring out the vote.

On the other hand, the outcome was still pretty shocking.  Given the sensational fact that Navalny had just been convicted of serious criminal charges and sentenced to prison for five years, given that this was the first “Western-style” election in Russia’s history, and given that Navalny had repeatedly said that his own fate and that of the country were riding on it, one might have expected turnout to exceed Levada’s prediction rather than falling vastly short of it.

When the dust had settled,  Sobyanin had defeated Navalny by “only” 24 points instead of 40 and by “only” half a million votes rather than a million and a half.  His margin was half what it could have been in terms or percentages, a third what it could have been in terms of votes numbers.  Had turnout been even lower, say about half what it actually was, Navalny might well have been elected Mayor. If it had been a quarter of what it actually was, Navalny might have won in a landslide.  For that matter, had only Navalny’s supporters gone to the polls, Sobyanin wouldn’t have received any votes at all!

For some contrast, in the last mayoral election in New York City the incumbent Michael Bloomberg also won, but defeated his rival by only 50,000 votes and just five points.  Sobyanin’s crushing margin of victory over Navalny was five times bigger than Bloomberg’s (ten times bigger if looking at number of votes in the margin rather than points), and Bloomberg was one of New York’s most well-respected mayors ever. Bloomberg got only 50.6% of the votes, a lower share than Sobyanin collected, and Sobyanin raked in more than twice as many votes as Bloomberg received.

Shocking Western Misreporting of Moscow Mayoral Election Results

Yesterday, the votes were counted in the first Moscow mayoral election in a decade.

Incumbent Sergei Sobyanin was reelected with 51.37% of the vote (roughly 1.2 million votes).  The runner-up was Alexei Navalny, who finished a whopping 24.13 points behind Sobyanin (collecting roughly 630,000 votes), who in turn nearly doubled Navalny’s vote total.  It was an absolute blowout, and Echo of Moscow radio declared it the cleanest Russian election in history so the issue of cheating by Sobyanin was off the table.

The only bright spot for Navalny was that just days before the election the Levada polling agency had pegged his support at 18%.  He got roughly the same number of votes as Levada predicted, but his share of the total was much larger because, shockingly, Sobyanin did a disgraceful job of getting his voters to the polling place.  Levada had shown Sobyanin with a dominant 60% share of the vote, but apparently overconfident and lazy Sobyanin’s forces sat back and let a big chunk of their support sit out the election.  But Navalny still ended up more than 30,000 votes short of forcing Sobyanin into a runoff.

And this bright spot was more than overshadowed by the astounding fact that two-thirds of Moscow voters (there are roughly 7.25 million of them) did likewise, simply ignoring what Navalny had claimed was the most important election in Russian history.  The world got the clear message that Russians simply don’t care about reform or change even as Putin pushes the Russian economy into a double-dip recession.  It was one of the most depressing moments of recent Russian history.  Moreover, as we previously reported Levada’s polling revealed the astounding fact that far more Muscovites said the would never, ever vote for Navalny than said they might do so. His negatives were far higher than his support. The notion that, as Navalny had repeatedly claimed, Moscow stood behind him and would show it given a fair chance, was absolutely blown to smithereens.

The utterly depressing voter turnout was made worse by absolutely godawful reporting from much of the Western press.

The Financial Times called Sobyanin’s win “narrow” and Fox News called it “close.” Narrow? Close? The actual fact was that Sobyanin won in a massive landslide, collecting twice as many votes as his nearest rival.  Granted, Sobyanin was “close” to being forced into a second-round runoff with Navalny, but in such a runoff election he would have utterly crushed Navalny, not least because of the wake-up call about mobilizing his support.

The headline on the article from the New York Times was that Navalny “says he can force  runoff.”  The entire lead paragraph is devoted to libelous speculation that the result might have been rigged simply because Navalny, who never reached 20% in the pre-election polls, did not win.  Navalny’s only “evidence” of fraud was the his own campaign’s exit polls showed him getting 7 points more support than he was allocated and Sobyanin five points less.  The NYT falsely claims that Navalny “defied expectations” when in fact he did no such thing. Expectations were defied, and brutally disappointed, by the voters of Moscow who sat home in droves, clearly showing they could not care less who rules Moscow.  There is zero evidence that Navalny got significantly more people to vote for him than pre-election polls indicated would do so.

But the most disgraceful reporting of all came from the Guardian in a perfectly wretched piece of garbage from Alex Luhn.  We’re not surprised by this, since the Guardian is the publisher of Miriam Elder, one of the worst Russia correspondents in the history of journalism.  The Guardian claimed that Vladimir Putin, who wasn’t even a candidate in the race, had got his “nose bloodied” by Navalny. It touted Navalny’s statement that the results had been falsified while totally ignoring the fact that nearly every Russian source said that the poll was mostly clean, and likewise ignoring the fact that the Kremlin had actively assisted Navalny in getting on the ballot in the first place. It completely ignore the pathetic level of voter turnout, which meant that in the end a mere 7.5% of all Moscow voters had gone to the polls to support Navalny.  And it ignored the fact that everywhere across the country Putin’s party of power prevailed, except in Ekaterinburg where for a second time the elected mayor is an opposition figure, clearly showing that it is possible for the right opposition candidate to prevail. Interestingly, the opposition candidate in E-burg did not come close to getting a majority but will take office anyway, because there is no requirement of getting a majority in E-burg.  So the standard Navalny wants to impose in Moscow would block the opposition victory in E-burg.

The type of repulsive, nauseating journalistic cheerleading engaged in by the Guardian and other so-called journalists who actively rooted for Navalny, urging him on and ignoring Navalny’s egregious faults (as we previously reported, AFP’s Maria Antonova was a noteworthy exception, highlighting Navalny’s blatant racism), hardly sets the right standard for Russian journalists to emulate and does the opposition movement no favors.  Navalny is a very weak candidate and a very weak leader, who has clearly shown he can’t motivate large number of Russians to join him in his crusade against Putin.  Better reporting might have encouraged a better candidate to come forward.  The opposition has instead squandered its best chance to actually influence politics in Russian capital.

For the third time, Navalny has failed to alter the results of a Russian election as he promised. First Navalny promised he would force a second Duma vote, and it didn’t happen. Then he swore he’d force Putin into a second presidential vote, but that didn’t happen either. And now his promise of actually winning the Moscow mayoral ballot, or at least forcing the incumbent into a runoff, has exploded in his face as well.

Three strikes and you’re out, Mr. Navalny.

Looming Disaster for Alexei Navalny

The latest poll from Levada, Russia’s most trustworthy pollster, on the Moscow mayoral election came out on September 1 (Russian-language link). The results are devastatingly bad for Alexei Navalny.

Levada predicts that incumbent Mayor Sergei Sobyanin will win in a landslide. Levada’s data indicate that Sobyanin will finish with nearly 60% of the vote, three times more than Navalny will receive.  Not only won’t Navalny win, he won’t come close to even forcing Sobyanin into a runoff.

While Levada indicates that Navalny will collect 18% of the vote, it shows that this only amounts to 10% of all Moscow voters (Levada indicates that only about 60% of voters will go to the polls at most, and that only 20% of voters are paying close attention to the race), and Navalny’s negatives are much higher than his positives:  a whopping 23% of respondents say Navalny is the one candidate they definitely would not vote for.  Navalny’s negatives are roughly 50% higher than any other candidate in the race.

Navalny’s puny total of 18% is trailed closely by the Communist candidate, who is garnering 12% support.

But the worst news of all for Navalny is that the Moscow mayoral election may well be the fairest in all of Russian history, and it will be virtually impossible to attack it as being unfair.  The only gripe Navalny could have would be his somewhat restricted access to TV, but the Kremlin did allow him to participate in debates that were televised citywide and Navalny himself has touted his mastery of the Internet, to which the vast majority of Moscow voters have access.

Putin launched a brutal tirade against Navalny on state TV, clearly seeking to rub salt in Navalny’s wounds and jeer at him, as he did at Khodorkovsky. It’s doubtful Putin has the courage, however, to let Navalny answer him on the same program as basic fairness would dictate.

This election is shaping up to strike a fatal blow to Navalny.  It appears that he will be exposed as extremely weak even his his greatest bastion of strength, Moscow, and that his claim to any national power base is totally illusory. When he’s packed off to jail for many years after the election, it will be impossible for him to claim his imprisonment is politically motivated. “Why should the Kremlin need to jail someone who has no chance of winning power?” it will argue.