Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 208

Unlike the results of the Kaliningrad vote, the results of other high-profile regional elections were fully predictable. The candidate of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), Aleksandr Mikhailov, won the run-off election for governor of Kursk Oblast. As of November 6, he had received 55.5 percent of the vote. His opponent, Viktor Surzhikov, former head of the Kursk branch of the Federal Security Service, had only 37.9 percent. Surzhikov was supported by the Kremlin. The “against all” entry on the ballot received the support of 5.2 percent of Kursk’s voters (Russian agencies, November 6).

Aleksandr Rutskoi, now the oblast’s former governor, failed to get the oblast court’s decision to disqualify him from the contest overruled. He was disqualified for giving erroneous information about his personal property and for misusing his official position in carrying out his elections campaign. He appealed the oblast court’s ruling to the Constitutional Court, but the higher court upheld the decision (Radio Ekho Moskvy, November 2). Even if the Constitutional Court had found in Rutskoi’s favor, it would have changed little, given that Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov had already indicated that the Constitutional Court’s decision would deal only with the legality of Rutskoi’s disqualification, not with the issue of nullifying the first round of voting. All of this gave weight to the popular theory that the Kremlin planned Rutskoi’s ouster. Rutskoi himself denied that Putin had anything to do with his disqualification, and stuck to that even after the Constitutional Court ruled against him (see the Monitor, November 1). At the same time, he announced his intention to appeal that decision to the Supreme Court’s presidium and even to the European Court of Human Rights (ORT, November 2).

Experts see little hope in such actions, though some believe Rutskoi may try to play up his image as a victim and underdog, just as he did in 1996, when such tactics brought him a massive victory. Rutskoi appears, however, to have understood the limitations of playing the same card twice and to have accepted the situation. He announced that he planned to drop out of politics for a while and instead to do some academic work on agricultural management (Radio Ekho Moskvy, November 5).

The second round of voting in Kursk off passed without further drama (NTV, November 3). The only crumb of comfort for former Governor Rutskoi was the fact that Kremlin, in defeating him, also lost. What really happened in Kursk was that the local elite used the weight of the Kremlin to replace Rutskoi with a governor more to their liking while, at the same time, preventing Putin’s protege from winning election.