Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 161

The lineup of the three candidates in Saratov’s gubernatorial election provides a snapshot of the regional elite that perhaps typifies other parts of Russia. All three are local men. All have been or still are members of the Communist party. All have links to local business interests. Incumbent governor Dmitri Ayatskov is the front-runner. He has been in office only four months, so he can boast few achievements, but he has struck up an alliance with go-getting Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov. He likes to be seen as hands-on problem-solver and to compare himself, however incongruously, with Petr Stolypin, the tsarist prime minister and reformer who was once governor of Saratov province. Ayatskov, a former poultry farm manager and deputy mayor of Saratov, has the strong support of the Moscow establishment and of Saratov business circles.

Ayatskov’s leading challenger is Communist Anatoly Gordeev, also a Saratov local with business links, being executive director of the Saratov branch of the Germes commercial industrial association. Despite his close identification with the Communist party, Gordeev is liked and respected locally for his activity in the regional legislature. Gordeev has promised that, if elected governor, he will resign from the Communist party, lest party policies conflict with the interests of the region. This is a sign of the weakness of party politics in Russia and the increasing influence of regional interests, particularly economic and business interests.

The third candidate is Vitaly Pavlov, a local businessman. Though he is a native of Saratov, Pavlov is not well-known in the region and has distributed virtually no campaign materials. Local people see his candidacy as an insurance policy on Ayatskov’s part, since Russian law forbids single-candidate elections. This explains the desperate efforts made by Saratov’s Communist party to have Pavlov disqualified — efforts that came to naught. A regional court declared on August 26 that, while there were some forgeries among the signatures submitted in support of Pavlov’s candidacy, there were not enough to warrant his disqualification.

Saratov Highlights National Trends.