Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 146

As the September 1 gubernatorial election draws near in Saratov oblast, the gap between the incumbent Dmitri Ayatskov, and his main challenger, Communist Anatoly Gordeev, is growing wider by the day. The Monitor’s correspondent in the region reports that no serious analyst doubts that victory will go to Ayatskov, who is using all the prerogatives of his position to keep himself in the public eye. Ayatskov has the full backing of the "party of power" in the form of the pro-government "Russia is Our Home" movement and the "Reforms — New Course" movement. Yabloko is the only reform-oriented political party that has refused to support Ayatskov, calling him "the Nazdratenko of Saratov" (a reference to the controversial governor of Primorsky krai).

Our correspondent observes that Ayatskov’s campaign has recruited all of the local officials and has blanketed the region with billboards and posters touting Ayatskov as "a democrat and reformer in the Stolypin mold" (a reference to Petr Stolypin, tsarist prime minister in the early years of this century, who was known for his agricultural reforms and who started his career as governor of Saratov province). The main street of the regional capital, Saratov, is lined with posters every 20-30 yards reading "With Ayatskov into the twenty-first century" and "Let us make Saratov the hub of the Volga region — Dmitri Ayatskov." This pervasive advertising is reminiscent of that used by Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov (an ally of Ayatskov) during his campaign for reelection in June. The local press is full of glowing articles about Ayatskov, who appears on television virtually every day, carrying out his official duties – which reminds observers of Boris Yeltsin’s domination of the media during the June presidential campaign.

The campaign of Communist challenger Anatoly Gordeev, by contrast, is said to be almost nonexistent. Pleading lack of funds, Gordeev has made use of only the limited advertising provided free of charge in the press and on television.

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