Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 157

Voters in Sverdlovsk Oblast in the Urals will go to the polls on August 29 to elect a governor. Of the seven candidates, incumbent Governor Eduard Rossel and Arkady Chernetsky, mayor of the regional capital Yekaterinburg, are running neck and neck. Few doubt that they will be in the lead after the first round, and that it is therefore likely to be the votes of those who come in third and fourth which determine the winner of the second round, due to be held on September 19 (Russian agencies, August 21).

Rossel, who was first appointed governor by President Yeltsin in 1991, leads his own movement, Transformation of the Urals. Chernetsky, who also heads his own movement, is in addition a leading member of Yuri Luzhkov’s Fatherland. The election will therefore be a first test of how much support Luzhkov and his movement can command in the regions.

Lying at the crossroads of trade routes between Europe and Asia, Sverdlovsk Oblast is a major industrial center and a source of almost every kind of hard currency-earning raw material. Local people pride themselves on their radicalism and passion for debate. In the early nineties, desire for autonomy prompted a unilateral attempt to declare a Urals Republic in Sverdlovsk. Yeltsin dissolved the republic and sacked Rossel, who clawed his way back to power and won election as governor in 1995. Separatist sentiment is now a thing of the past, but Rossel has remained an outspoken advocate of regional interests. He is now running for his second term as a popularly elected governor.

Also running are a candidate from the Right Cause movement–the deputy chair of the Sverdlovsk regional Duma, Andrei Selivanov–and the owner of a major local supermarket chain, Igor Kovpak. The communist candidate is the local Communist Party leader, Vladimir Kadochnikov. The Communist Party is not strong in Yekaterinburg, so Kadochnikov is not expected to win, but he may emerge in the role of kingmaker in the second round. Ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky was disqualified when election officials rejected as forgeries many of the signatures submitted in support of his candidacy. There are also two independent candidates.

The campaign has not proved quite as dirty as observers had predicted, though unidentified individuals have set fire to the apartment of a local TV station head and the home of the deputy mayor of Yekaterinburg, who is close to Chernetsky. No one was injured in either incident (Russian agencies, August 7).