According to preliminary results from the run-off election for governor of Moscow Oblast (which is located just outside the Russian capital), Boris Gromov, the former commander of Soviet forces in Afghanistan, has edged out his opponent, former State Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznev, by just 1.5 percent of the vote–48 percent to 46.5 percent. Voting took place yesterday (Russian agencies, January 10). The race was significant because Seleznev, a top official of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), won the blessing of Acting President Vladimir Putin, who made a point of praising Seleznev on television last week. Indeed, Putin and the Kremlin power-brokers behind him undoubtedly saw Seleznev as the less of two evils, given that Gromov received backing in the second round from Fatherland-All Russia, the coalition led by Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, and from Yabloko. If these preliminary results hold and Seleznev indeed loses, it suggests that the Putin magic may be starting to fade a bit. Many observers believe that Putin’s endorsement of Unity, the hastily thrown-together pro-Kremlin coalition, was the main factor in the coalition’s strong performance in last December’s State Duma election. Seleznev received much favorable coverage in recent weeks on the state’s two television channels–Russian Public Television and RTR state television.
There were other run-off elections yesterday, and the results in these also appear to have been very close. One of them was for the governorship of Tversk Oblast, where, according to preliminary results, the current head of the region’s administration, Vladimir Platov, beat his opponent, Vladimir Bayunov, who was a KPRF deputy in the last Duma, by just 0.5 of a percentage point–46.55 percent to 46.02 percent (Russian agencies, January 10). Meanwhile, Novosibirsk Mayor Viktor Tolokonsky has apparently edged out his opponent, Deputy Economics Minister Ivan Starikov, for the Novosibirsk governorship. According to preliminary results, Tolokonsky received 44.32 percent of the vote, while Starikov won 42.17 percent (Russian agencies, January 10).
REBELS COUNTERATTACK IN A NUMBER OF CHECHEN TOWNS.