Publication: Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 96

On May 13, the Krasnoyarsk Krai legislative assembly voted to hold the region’s next gubernatorial election on September 8. The need for the election came on the death of Krasnoyarsk’s incumbent governor, Aleksandr Lebed, in a helicopter crash last month (Russian agencies, May 13; see the Monitor, April 29).

The choice of September 8 came as no surprise. The official explanation is that the second Sunday in September will be an optimal day for voting, given that a majority of Krasnoyarsk’s voters will by that time have returned from their summer vacations but not yet started to “dig potatoes,” as one legislative assembly deputy put it–a reference to the fact they would not be distracted from voting by work on their land plots. In addition, the September 8 election date ensures that preparations for the region’s census, which is scheduled for the following month, will not get in the way of the voting (ORT, Izvestia, May 13).

The official explanation notwithstanding, a number of independent observers believe there was another reason. Having the shortest possible election campaign benefits one particular candidate–Aleksandr Uss, speaker of the Krasnoyarsk Krai legislative assembly. Uss, who had already been preparing to challenge Lebed for the governor’s post prior to the latter’s death, is favored among the local candidates. Indeed, opinion polls show that if the election were held now, Uss would win. He has managed to garner support from a number of financial-industrial groups and has adopted the image of a fighter against the dominance of outsiders in the krai’s power structures (, May 13; Vremya Novostei, May 14).

Lebed, of course, was himself an outsider, having come to Krasnoyarsk after running for president in 1996 and briefly serving as secretary of the Kremlin’s Security Council. Uss’s main rival in the battle to succeed Lebed, Taimyr Autonomous District Governor Aleksandr Khloponin, is also seen as an outsider. Observers believe that the Krasnoyarsk legislative assembly, which Uss virtually controls, picked September 8 as the election date to neutralize the threat that Khloponin poses to Uss’s prospects. For Khloponin, the best date would have been some time in October. This would have given him enough time to convince Krasnoyarsk public opinion that he represents the interests of the krai generally, not just those of Taimyr (, May 13).

Other potential candidates for Krasnoyarsk governorship include Pyotr Pimashkov, mayor of Krasnoyarsk city, and Pyotr Romanov, a State Duma deputy and leader of the krai’s Communists (Izvestia, May 13). These, however, are generally seen as having little hope of winning. The real race, therefore, is likely to be between Uss and Khloponin. That, in any case, appears to be the view of the federal center: President Vladimir Putin was reportedly planning to have separate Kremlin meetings this week with Uss and Khloponin (Vremya Novostei, May 14). Indeed, the Kremlin would reportedly be happy to see either Uss or Khloponin as Krasnoyarsk governor, despite reports in the media connecting Uss with Anatoly Bykov, the former Krasnoyarsk Aluminum Factory head now in prison awaiting trial on charges that he plotted a murder (, May 14). Observers believe the choice of who will win now rests with Putin.

Krasnoyarsk itself appears to be divided into two camps–one headed by Uss, which holds a majority of seats in the regional legislative assembly; the other headed by Khloponin, made up of “northerners” and controlling the Norilsk industrial district, which supplies Krasnoyarsk Krai with 70 percent of its budgetary funds (Vremya Novostei,, May 14).

Whatever the case, it is a fact that Lebed left no successor in his wake. Indeed, the late governor’s supporters, who once comprised a significant political force, are no longer visible, and the man who replaced him as acting governor, former First Deputy Governor Nikolai Ashlapov, has announced he will not run. Two other figures mentioned as potential candidates in the race to succeed Lebed, former Krasnoyarsk Governor Valery Zubov and Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu, have also said that they will not (, May 13). Indeed thus far only Uss has publicly declared himself as a contender (RIA Novosti, May 13).