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Head of Russian village defeated in local polls by cleaner he selected as ‘dummy’ candidate

To meet the minimum requirement of two candidates at the recent election in Povalikha, the district’s incumbent leader, Nikolai Loktev, decided to convince Marina Udgodskaya, who previously worked as a cleaner, to run against him.

By: Express Web Desk | September 30, 2020 4:27:05 pm
This is the building in Povalikhino that Marina Udgodskaya has spent years cleaning. (Povalikhino Council via BBC)

The cleaner of an administrative building was elected as the new head of Povalikhino, a small rural settlement in Russia, after the area’s incumbent leader’s attempt at rigging the polls drastically backfired. Despite not campaigning, the cleaner was able to win almost 62% of the votes, while the former leader only managed to secure 34%, BBC reported.

To meet the minimum requirement of two candidates at the recent election in Povalikha, the district’s leader, Nikolai Loktev, decided to convince Marina Udgodskaya, who previously worked as a cleaner, to run against him. Loktev’s plans were foiled when dissatisfied voters chose Udgodskaya over him, despite her political inexperience.

It is a common practice in Russia for local leadership to pick ‘bogus’ candidates to run against them, in order to give the appearance of a real race.

According to a report by BBC, Udgodskaya was stunned by the news of her victory. Describing herself as a “fake” candidate, she said that she was “not ready” to take on such a big responsibility. “I didn’t think people would actually vote for me,” she told Telegram news channel Podyom. “I didn’t do anything at all!”

“Nikolai Loktev thought no-one would vote for her and he would stay in the job. But the people had had enough and they came out and chose Marina Udgodskaya,” a member of Povalikha’s electoral commission told BBC.

Loktev, a member of the pro-Vladimir Putin United Russia party, claimed in an interview that he had done everything he could to support the people of the village. “Clearly the people wanted change,” he said in an interview with BBC.

Udgodskaya has little choice but to serve as the village’s new leader. If she turns down her role, the Pensioners’ Party, which is backing her, has said that she will have to pay for the entire re-election process, BBC reported.

In many parts of Russia, local elections have seen voters casting their ballots against the United Russia party due to growing frustrations over falling wages and the government’s handling of the pandemic. Supporters of the Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny have also managed to make rare gains in places like Siberia, Reuters reported.

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