The campaign for governor of Nizhegorod Oblast is attracting particular attention from politicians and journalists. Located in the upper Volga region, this is economically one of Russia’s strongest regions. In the early 1990s, the economist Grigory Yavlinsky joined forces with the governor of the oblast at the time, Boris Nemtsov, in an experiment in regional economic reform which attracted world attention. Today the oblast is, after Moscow, one of the most important centers of Russian politics and industry. Its capital, Nizhny Novgorod, is also the residence of Sergei Kirienko, the Russian president’s envoy to the Volga federal district. Kirienko is considered one of the most promising Russian politicians of the “new wave,” so his activity in his new post has also attracted special attention.
So far, seven potential candidates have announced that they intend to take part in the election for regional governor set for July 15. They include incumbent Governor Ivan Sklyarov; State Duma deputies Dmitry Savelev and Gennady Khodyrev; two deputies to the Nizhegorod city duma, Dmitry Birman and Ivan Karnilin; businessman Andrei Klimentev, and Klimentev’s brother, Sergei (Polit.ru, April 25). Observers believe that Sklyarov, Savelev and Andrei Klimentev have the best chances of winning.
As the incumbent governor, Sklyarov heads a team which dominates the oblast. On April 27, he officially announced his plans to run for re-election, adding that he would use neither “black PR” nor administrative resources in his campaign (Russian agencies, April 27). It is hard, however, to take this promise seriously. Use of administrative resources–the informal resources available to a regional head–is the trump card of all Russian governors when they run for re-election. It is appropriate only to talk about the degree to which these resources are employed.
Sklyarov does not have to worry about opposition from the federal center, which has created problems for his counterparts in so many other parts of the country. He has good relations with the Kremlin and–which is particularly important–with presidential envoy Kirienko. Some observers expected Kirienko to participate actively in the Nizhegorod gubernatorial race; six months ago, they were even predicting that he would put forward his own candidacy. Were a presidential envoy to one of the federal districts to enter the race for governor in one of the regions subordinated to that district, however, it could have a disastrous effect on the image of the federal district as an institution. Such a step would be tantamount to a signal that the post of governor was more valuable than that of presidential envoy. Kirienko has indicated by his behavior that he does not intend to run for governor. It is not known whether this is his own choice or the result of coaxing by the Kremlin.
Currently, therefore, there is agreement both that Kirienko intends to back Sklyarov and that an alliance of sorts exists between the two. Observers concur that Kirienko has the power to appoint his people to the region’s key posts, but not to put in his own person as governor. Kirienko therefore most likely needs Sklyarov’s cooperation to achieve his own strategic goals (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, April 17). Meanwhile, attempts to drive a wedge between the two have not abated.
…THE CHALLENGERS WEIGH IN.