Some irregularities were reported to the Golos election-monitoring organization, but there were none of the blatant abuses that launched the political protest movement after the 2011 parliamentary election. Navalny’s supporters warned against abuse of balloting at the homes of people with disabilities, which is harder to monitor, and irregularities during the vote counting.
Of the four other candidates, only one, Ivan Melnikov, the Communist Party standard-bearer, had won a significant number of votes according to exit polls that showed him with 8 or 9 percent of the vote.
Two Melnikov supporters at the polls, Ivan and Anna Karev, said they didn’t like Navalny, but wanted to make sure they voted for someone other than Sobyanin.
“He’s a bureaucrat for Putin,” Ivan said of the incumbent. “He might be an heir to Putin. So we won’t vote for . . .”
“Putin,” Anna interjected.
“He has no feel for Moscow,” Ivan said.
Sobyanin, who is from northern Siberia, was appointed mayor in 2010. His gamble in seeking an election in 2013, a year ahead of schedule and the first in Moscow in a decade, may have backfired, even if he wins. And it may cause deeper ruptures in the circles around Putin, where opinions about how to deal with Navalny and the university-educated opposition are apparently diverging.
After voting Sunday, Putin said he didn’t think politicians make good mayors.
“Such big cities need not so much politicians as politically neutral, businesslike, concrete people capable of working as their leaders,” Putin said, in remarks reported by the Interfax news agency.
The citizen watchdog organization reported that Sobyanin had gotten his best results in the working-class regions of southeast and northeast Moscow. Navalny was strongest in the center and in fashionable southwest Moscow — where education levels and incomes are higher — this despite Sobyanin’s stated goal during the past year that he must find ways to retain Moscow’s “creative class” in order to make it a more vibrant city.
In another race, far from the cafes of Moscow’s Boulevard Ring, the political opposition received seemingly good news in the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth-largest city. There, the popular but controversial founder of a drug-treatment foundation, Yevgeny Roizman, was leading in the mayoral race, with half the votes counted — according to the local election commission.
But then the central election commission mysteriously announced that Roizman was significantly behind, with no explanation.
Roizman is allied with Mikhail Prokhorov, the billionaire owner of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets who has been dabbling in politics since the summer of 2011. Prokhorov’s most prominent provincial ally, Yevgeny Urlashov, was arrested in the spring just a year after being elected mayor of Yaroslavl, and is currently being held without bail on charges that he, like Navalny in his case, claims are politically motivated and without foundation.