The Kremlin is licking its wounds following the election victories of Communist-backed governors in Amur oblast on September 22 and Leningrad oblast on September 29. The September 29 reelection of the Kremlin-backed incumbent governor in Rostov oblast seems to be little comfort. The narrow defeat (by a few hundred votes) of the Kremlin-backed governor of Amur oblast was not unexpected, since Amur has long been seen as the Far East’s "red island." But the loss of Leningrad oblast to the Communist-backed Vladim Gustov is being seen as a more serious defeat. Gustov got 53.4 percent of the vote while incumbent Aleksandr Belyakov received 31.7 percent.
Mutual recriminations are the order of the day. Sergei Filatov, the former Yeltsin aide charged with identifying and fostering Kremlin-friendly candidates, blamed the defeated incumbent, saying that after five years in office Belyakov had grown complacent and pompous. Filatov reproached Belyakov for announcing, only a week before the election, that he and the governor of St. Petersburg had agreed to merge their two territories by the year 2001. This was a tactless move, Filatov said, since the benefits to the city are more obvious than those to the oblast. (RTR, September 30) Belyakov’s response was that he lost because only old people turned out to vote.
The victorious Gustov did not contest this analysis, but said it underlined the fact that Belyakov’s economic policies had hurt the disadvantaged. He pointed out that such people have votes and are worthy of consideration by politicians. Gustov insisted that, though he is a former member of the CPSU, he now belongs to no political party and that in the recent campaign he had the backing not only of the communists but also of Grigory Yavlinsky’s Yabloko party and even of the Greens. He insisted that his policies would be dictated not by politics but solely by economic considerations and that he would not be taking orders from the Communist party. (NTV, September 30) Aleksandr Kazakov, first deputy head of the presidential administration and a close ally of Anatoly Chubais, was the only Moscow figure who did not depict the Leningrad results as a disaster. Taking Gustov at his word, Kazakov said that while Gustov’s election would inevitably be depicted as a victory for the communists, Gustov was a professional with whom the Kremlin could do business. (RTR, September 30)
Another Call to The Colors.