BATTLE BEGINS IN IRKUTSK.
Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 127
June 28 was the deadline for registering candidates for the governor’s race in Irkutsk Oblast, and July 1 marked the official start of campaigning. The election will be held on July 29 (Russian agencies, June 28-29).
Seven candidates have been registered, but observers believe the real battle will be between incumbent governor Boris Govorin; the representative of the oblast legislative assembly in the Federation Council Valentin Mezhvich; leader of the Irkutsk branch of the Russian Communist (KPRF) Sergei Levchenko; and the deputy head of the regional anti-organized crime unit, Aleksandr Balashov. For the first time, there is a woman candidate for Irkutsk governor–Lyudmila Drobysheva, an academic from Irkutsk State University (Polit.ru, June 28).
Govorin faces strong competition, but few doubt that he will win. Practically all the major enterprises in the region are on his side, as are the pro-Kremlin Unity party and its leader, Minister for Emergencies Sergei Shoigu. Govorin’s work is rated highly by Leonid Drachevsky, Putin’s representative to the Siberian federal district, and by the president himself. Putin met with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori in Irkutsk, and came away very favorably impressed by Govorin’s hospitality (Kommersant, June 27).
Until recently, Valentin Mezhevich, formerly deputy director of the local energy supplier Irkutskenergo, was seen as the focal point for opposition to the governor. As the election has approached, however, commentators have remarked on the odd alliance between the local Communists and the Union of Right-Wing Forces, both whom support Mezhevich (Gudok, June 21). This appears to have diminished Mezhevich’s influence and reduced his chances of electoral victory. Instead, the prospects have improved for Levchenko, who can rely on a stable leftist electorate. Nevertheless, experts believe it unlikely that Levchenko will even make it into a second round: they predict that Govorin will win outright in the first round by garnering more than 50 percent of the vote (Kommersant, June 27). Some observers are speculating that the incumbent governor’s enemies will try to disrupt the elections in order to buy time (Trud, June 27). Experience suggests, however, that such a tactic has few chances for success when it is employed by the opponents of an incumbent.
RUSSIAN MILITARY HANDS OVER VAZIANI BASE TO GEORGIA.