A lawyer representing Aleksandr Rutskoi, the incumbent governor of Kursk Oblast who was barred from running in the region’s October 22 gubernatorial race by a last-minute court decision, said yesterday that he has sent an appeal to Aleksandr Veshnyakov, head of the federal Central Election Commission, demanding that the election be invalidated. According to Rutskoi’s lawyer, Dmitri Shteinberg, the text of the law “On Kursk oblast’s elections for governor” does not correspond to the text of the law published in the local press, and the results of the election are therefore invalid (Russian agencies, October 23). Veshnyakov defended the October 21 decision of the Kursk Oblast court, which ruled that Rutskoi had improperly declared his property when he registered as a candidate and that he used his official position to campaign (RTR, October 23). There has been a consensus in the Russian media over the last two days that the Kremlin was behind the court decision to remove Rutskoi from the race. Rutskoi has appealed to Russia’s Supreme Court (see the Monitor, October 23).
Representatives from Russia’s main center-right parties denounced the decision to oust Rutskoi from the Kursk gubernatorial race. Boris Nemtsov, who heads the Union of Right-Wing Forces faction in the State Duma, called it a “dangerous” decision, and noted that if Rutskoi could be thrown out of the race for using the “administrative resources” of his incumbency for campaigning, the same should have applied to other incumbents, including Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev and President Vladimir Putin (NTV, October 23). Sergei Ivanenko, deputy head of Yabloko’s faction in the State Duma, said the Kursk court decision barring Rutskoi was “formally” correct but in fact a “mockery” of legality, because a candidate can be barred at the eleventh hour only on the basis of extraordinary last-minute events, such as massive vote-buying, not on the basis of lesser violations which had been known about all along, as was the case with Rutskoi (Moskovsky komsomolets, October 24). On the other hand, Aleksandr Kuvaev, first secretary of the Moscow branch of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) and a State Duma deputy, defended the court decision, saying Rutskoi was removed from the race “completely legally.” The KPRF’s candidate in the Kursk race, Aleksandr Mikhailov, is likely to win the governorship in a runoff (Moskovsky komsomolets, October 24; see also the Monitor, October 23).
RUTSKOI’S PROBLEMS IN KURSK BEGAN EARLY.