Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 225

Preliminary results of Sunday’s voting for St. Petersburg’s legislative assembly, in which 600 candidates contested 50 seats, indicated that Yabloko, the movement headed by economist Grigory Yavlinsky, received the most support. According to press reports today, 24 Yabloko candidates won enough votes to enter a run-off election. Another electoral bloc which received strong backing is headed by Yuri Boldyrev, one of Yabloko’s founders who later broke with the movement. Seventeen candidates from Boldyrev’s bloc won enough votes Sunday to move into the runoff (NTV, December 7).

Boldyrev–a deputy head of the Audit Chamber, an independent agency set up by Russia’s parliament to monitor how budget funds are used (or, to be more accurate, misused)–is known for his stand against corruption. In 1993, Yeltsin removed Boldyrev from the post of Russia’s comptroller general after Boldyrev insisted that the government investigate alleged high-level corruption in the armed forces and the Moscow city government. One of the original members of the Interregional Group of democratic deputies in the Soviet-era parliament, Boldyrev became a strong opponent of the “monetarist” policies carried out by Gaidar and Chubais. In St. Petersburg, however, he backed the City Charter initiative launched by allies of Gaidar and Chubais, including Galina Starovoitova.

According to press reports today, preliminary data indicates that both the communists and Severnaya Stolitsa (Northern Capital), the electoral bloc which Starovoitova helped set up, faired poorly in Sunday’s vote (NTV, December 7).

It is already old news that the electoral campaign in Russia’s northern capital was one of the dirtiest on record, replete with “double” candidates, disinformation, vote-buying, threats and intimidation, anti-Semitic appeals, and so forth. Some voters were reportedly offered 15 rubles (a little less than US$1) for their vote, and promised another 35 rubles if the candidate won. NTV television on Sunday quoted one independent election monitor as saying that patients from a mental hospital yesterday were instructed on how to vote by medical personnel (NTV, December 6).

According to one observer, Lev Lurov of the “St. Petersburg Times,” the criminalization of the city’s legislative elections was in no small part a result of the Russia’s economic crisis. Spheres of the economy in which organized crime have been most active–retail trade, restaurants, real estate and even show business–have experienced a huge slump since last August’s financial meltdown, Lurov said. City budget funds, therefore, have become more attractive to the criminal groups: Each deputy in St. Petersburg’s legislative assembly, for example, has a “reserve fund” worth US$400,000. This, according to Lurov, helps explain why the mafia groups put forward candidates (NTV, December 6).