Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 96

Only a week remains for candidates to register in the election for governor of Nizhny Novgorod oblast. The post fell vacant in March, when incumbent Boris Nemtsov moved to Moscow to join the government. So far, 13 candidates have said they intend to run. Because of personal rivalries in the region, however, moves are gathering ground to postpone the election, which is set for June 29.

At present, there are two favorites to win: Nizhny Novgorod mayor Ivan Sklyarov and the former Communist Party boss of the region, Gennady Khodyrev. Sklyarov is presenting himself as Nemtsov’s designated successor. Also intending to run are the well-known writer and Russian nationalist politician, Eduard Limonov, and Russian TV correspondent Nina Zvereva; they will add color to the campaign, but neither is tipped to win.

Meanwhile, the man chosen by Nemtsov to stand in as his temporary replacement, Yury Lebedev, has called on the oblast Duma to postpone the elections on the grounds that the regional government is broke. This seems improbable, given that Nizhny Novgorod is one of Russia’s largest and most successful industrial regions, but Lebedev says all available money has already been spent on child benefits. The real reason, however, seems to be that Lebedev wants to prevent Sklyarov being elected. There is said to be no love lost between the two men, even though both were close to Nemtsov. Lebedev stands to keep the job of acting governor if the elections are postponed. (Segodnya, May 13; Komsomolskaya pravda, May 14)

In the first years of Boris Nemtsov’s leadership, Nizhny Novgorod oblast was often described as unique in that harmony between its leaders enabled it to move ahead with market reforms faster than other Russian regions, which were plagued by internecine friction. This ceased to be true in 1994, when Nemtsov had a public falling-out with the then mayor of Nizhnii Novgorod, Dmitry Bednyakov. Nemtsov ran a tight ship, however, and did not permit leadership squabbles to derail his region from the reform path.

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