Another regional election campaign in Russia has also attracted national attention: the race for governor of Nizhegorod Oblast, where candidates last week began registering. On May 18 the oblast election commission registered the acting governor, Ivan Sklyarov, as a candidate. In all, twenty-three people say they plan to stand for election (Polit.ru, May 18). Experts agree, however, that only three stand any chance of winning: incumbent Sklyarov, State Duma deputy and businessman Dmitry Savelev; and businessman Andrei Klimentev (Vremya Novostei, May 22). Of these, Klimentev is the most colorful. He was elected mayor of the regional capital, Nizhny Novgorod, in 1998, but the results of the election were annulled and Klimentev was sentenced to six years in a labor camp for misappropriation of a Finance Ministry credit. He was released from prison in October of last year.
Also standing for election is Eduard Limonov, the notorious writer who founded and still leads the radical National Bolshevik Party and who was not long ago arrested and jailed on charges of illegal arms possession. His supporters have already collected the required number of signatures in support of his candidacy (Russian agencies, May 11). Limonov, however, is not viewed by the other candidates as a serious challenger. They are far more alarmed about the possible entry into the race of Oleg Deripaska, head of the Siberian Aluminum company. Deripaska’s supporters have been gathering signatures for his candidacy for some time now, even though he himself has so far given no indication that he plans to run (Polit.ru, May 22). Many observers believe that, if Deripaska were to run, he would stand a good chance of winning, continuing the trend of business tycoons taking over the leadership of regions. There is, however, another possibility–that the Kremlin sees Deripaska’s involvement as a way of keeping Klimentev out of the governor’s chair (Vremya Novostei, May 22).
Adding spice to the campaign, Klimentev claimed last week that his former wife and one-time political supporter, Oksana Klimenteva, had been kidnapped by people connected to Sergei Kirienko, President Vladimir Putin’s envoy to the Volga federal district. Klimentev maintained that the kidnappers planned to turn his ex-wife into a zombie. On May 22, Klimenteva resurfaced and announced that she too planned to run for governor in order to get “legal protection” and custody of her son, who had remained with Klimentev after the couple divorced. The oblast election commission stepped in, ruling Klimenteva ineligible to register as a candidate on the grounds that she is only 29 years old. Local law requires gubernatorial candidates to be at least 39 (Kommersant, May 23). Andrei Klimentev, for his part, called what took place a political provocation by the district’s presidential envoy (Polit.ru, May 22). Observers noted that Oksana Klimeneva previously enjoyed a heroic image as her husband’s defender, and that her latest escapades had indeed reduced his chances of winning the upcoming election (Vremya Novostei, May 23).
DISMAL LIVING CONDITIONS TRIGGER MILITARY MUTINY.