However, Sunday’s turnout was low. Two hours before the polls closed, only 26 percent of eligible voters had cast ballots. The final result may be barely more than half the number of those who voted in the 2012 presidential election.
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, about 10 percent, according to official results.
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 with the win. 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 — 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 Yekaterinburg, on the east slope of the Ural Mountains. Roizman, the popular but polarizing founder of a drug treatment foundation, was reportedly in the lead with 33 percent of the vote. Under local election rules, no runoff is required.
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.