December 3 saw voting for regional executives in no fewer than eleven of the constituent republics and regions of the Russian Federation. Once again, the Kremlin failed to score a single decisive victory. Four of the elections were completed in just one round. In Astrakhan Oblast, incumbent Governor Anatoly Guzhvin scored an easy win with 81.4 percent of the vote. It was the same in Krasnodar krai, where Aleksandr Tkachev, “heir” to former Governor Nikolai Kondratenko, scored 81.9 percent. In other regions, incumbents were defeated: in Perm Oblast, Governor Gennady Igumnov lost to Perm Mayor Yuri Trutnev (scoring 35 percent to Trutnev’s 51.3). In the Koryak autonomous district, Russia’s only woman governor, Valentina Boronevich, lost to local businessman Vladimir Loginov (33 percent to his 50.8).
In the remaining regions, no candidate won more than 50 percent of the vote and run-off elections will have to be held.
–In Arkhangel Oblast, incumbent Governor Anatoly Yefimov won 49.7 percent and Nikolai Malakov, former head of the regional government, won 32.3 percent.
–In Ivanov Oblast, local Communist leader Vladimir Tikhonov received 49 percent and the chairman of the oblast government, Anatoly Golovkov, 32.4 percent.
–In the Republic of Marii-El, incumbent president Vyacheslav Kislitsyn won 26.7 percent and local businessman Leonid Markelov 27.6 percent.
–In Kamchatka Oblast, Deputy Governor Boris Sinchenko, official “heir” of former Governor Vladimir Biryukov, received 27.7 percent and Maksim Mashkovich, leader of the region’s Communists, 20.5 percent.
–In the Komi-Permyak autonomous district, incumbent Governor Nikolai Poluyanov received 25 percent and Gennady Savelev, head of the Perm Oblast Audit Chamber, 26 percent.
–In Ryazan Oblast, incumbent Governor Vyacheslav Lyubimov won 44.9 percent and Valery Rymin, a local businessman, 12 percent.
–In Stavropol krai, incumbent Governor Aleksandr Chernogorov won 28.5 percent and Stanislav Ilyasov, former chairman of the krai government, 19 percent.
All of these elections passed off without serious incident. The only exception was Kamchatka, where Vladimir Kruze, a lawyer well known in the region, was found murdered outside a polling station. Local observers believe it was a contract murder, though no evidence for that assertion has yet been produced (NTV, December 3).
Contrary to the expectations of many observers, there was no repeat of October’s “Kursk scenario,” which saw the incumbent, Kremlin bugbear Aleksandr Rutskoi forced out of the race by a court order. Several such attempts were made, however. One involved the incumbent governor of Stavropol Krai, Aleksandr Chernogorov. A rival candidate, Vasily Krasulya, member of the Union of Right-Wing Forces, accused Chernogorov of providing the local election authorities with erroneous information concerning his property–specifically, underreporting the size of his apartment–and managed temporarily to get Chernogorov excluded from the race (Russian agencies, November 29). However, a superior court confirmed that Chernorgorov’s property declaration had been inaccurate, but ruled that this was not enough to disqualify him from the race. Krasulya is threatening to appeal to the Supreme Court (Radio Ekho Moskvy, November 30).
The Kremlin made a more serious effort to get a court to disqualify the candidacy of Marii-El incumbent President Kislitsyn, long a thorn in the Kremlin’s side (Russian agencies, December 2). Its aim: to prevent Kislitsyn–“a barefaced hooligan,” as he has been characterized in Kremlin corridors–from winning a second term. First, Kislitsyn’s loyal officials were forced out of their posts. Next there were threats that court cases involving Kislitsyn would be activated and that surveillance tapes showing him meeting with local crime bosses would be shown to the public (Obshchaya gazeta, October 5). Kislitsyn himself began to express doubts that he would participate in the election (Russian agencies, October 31). Finally came his meeting with Sergei Kirienko, Putin’s authorized representative in the Volga federal district. Members of Kirienko’s entourage claimed: “Kislitsyn’s come to throw in the towel” (Russian agencies, October 31). It soon became clear, however, that the Kremlin team had mistaken their desire for reality. Not only did Kislitsyn not throw in the towel: Despite everything, he joined the race and declared his determination to win. A last-minute attempt to get his registration as a candidate revoked came to nothing.
It comes as no surprise that the trickiest situations involving heating and lighting are occurring in regions run by governors whom the Kremlin does not like, such as Primorsky krai and Ulyanovsk Oblast. On November 23, the hot water was turned off in Yoshkar-Ola, capital of the Marii-El Republic. The official explanation was that spending limitations on gas had been exceeded and that the city budget was deep in debt (Radio Ekho Moskvy, November 23). The energy crisis did not of course increase the popularity of the republic leadership in the eyes of the voters; even so, it turned out to be insufficient to unseat Kislitsyn.
The “Kursk scenario” was employed much more successfully by the governors themselves against their political opponents. On December 1, a court decision removed the favorite from the election for mayor of Krasnodar: Incumbent Valery Samoylenko was accused of abusing his official post during the campaign (Vremya novostei, Radio Ekho Moskvy, December 1). The mayoral election was held at the same time as the election for mayor of Krasnodar krai. On this occasion, however, incumbent Governor Nikolai Kondratenko, infamous for his anti-Semitic utterances, opted out of the race “on health grounds” (meaning, in the view of most observers, under pressure from the Kremlin). Many commentators saw Kondratenko’s decision to withdraw as one of the most important events of the electoral season (Obshchaya gazeta, November 16). Kondratenko, however, chose his own successor–Aleksandr Tkachev, chairman of the State Duma’s nationalities committee, who is no less odious a nationalist than Kondratenko himself. Even in Krasnodar, therefore, the Kremlin failed to score a complete victory. Indeed, when Kondratenko’s supporters tried to coax him into running for re-election, he said he saw no sense in doing so, since by “burying Samoylenko” he had achieved his main aim (Radio Ekho Moskvy, December 1).
To be fair, it should be noted that not all of the governors running this time around were able to employ the “Kursk scenario” effectively. On November 29, a court in Arkhangel Oblast refused to overturn the registration of Nikolai Malakov, main challenger to incumbent Governor Anatoly Yefremov. Yefremov’s personal representative accused Malakov of violating election law, but the court declined to uphold the complaint (Russian agencies, November 30).
The December 3 gubernatorial races provided graphic confirmation that the governors are no longer afraid of Putin, because the Russian president has, as before, no means of opposing them on their own ground. The “Kursk scenario” turned out to be an imaginary threat, just like all the Kremlin’s previous threats. If truth be told, the “Kursk scenario” was not even really applied in Kursk, given that victory there was won not by the Kremlin, but by Rutskoi’s local opponents. In regions where the governor’s power is strong, the Kremlin is powerless to unseat him.
YEAR-END OSCE MINISTERIAL COUNCIL MEETING BODES ILL FOR CIS.