The incumbent mayor of Nizhny Novgorod, Ivan Sklyarov, won yesterday’s run-off election for governor of the region, garnering 52 percent of the vote to beat his rival, Gennady Khodyrev. Also yesterday, a run-off election for mayor of Samara was won by Georgy Limansky — the leader of the local branch of Aleksandr Lebed’s new party — with 54 percent of the vote. (Itar-Tass, July 14) The elections had been closely watched both in the regions and in Moscow as a barometer of regional sentiment on Russia’s economic reforms. The contested posts fell vacant when Boris Nemtsov and Oleg Sysuev, both well known as reformers, were promoted to posts in the Russian government in March.
Sklyarov was strongly supported by the Russian government: Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov both visited the region in recent days. Sklyarov was also supported by Grigory Yavlinsky’s Yabloko movement, while Khodyrev was backed not only by the Russian Communist Party but also by Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democratic Party. The election was portrayed as a struggle between reformers and those who want to turn the clock back, regardless of the fact that Sklyarov has been described by those who know him as at best a reluctant reformer, while Khodyrev, though he was once the region’s Communist Party boss, is now a successful businessman.
In Samara, Limansky defeated former deputy mayor Anatoly Afanasev, who campaigned as the reform candidate. Limansky fought his campaign on a platform critical of the government’s planned reform of housing and public utilities. He said that the government’s plans to cut housing subsidies place too great a burden on ordinary people and he promised to lower rents to last year’s level. This is a particularly contentious issue in Samara, where rent hikes have already sparked widespread popular discontent and protest.
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