Anatoly Gordeev, the Communist candidate in Saratov oblast’s gubernatorial election, seems to be growing desperate. Well-known and respected in the region, Gordeev is nonetheless lagging far behind the favorite, incumbent governor Dmitri Ayatskov. Monitor’s correspondent in Saratov oblast says the reason is that the regional Communist party organization has not yet picked itself up following the defeat of its candidate, Gennady Zyuganov, in last month’s presidential election. And, as Saratov’s September 1 election approaches, governor Ayatskov is using all the powers of his office to restrict his rivals’ access to the local media.
Now, the Saratov Communist party organization has attacked the third candidate in the race, local businessman Vitaly Pavlov, saying his registration papers are not in order. Pavlov is believed to have even less hope of defeating Ayatskov on September 1 than Gordeev, so the Communists’ attack on him is believed to be a desperate attempt to get the election postponed. Saratov’s is the first of fifty gubernatorial elections that will take place throughout Russia by year’s end. By choosing an early election date, Ayatskov tipped events in his own favor. Ayatskov has been in office such a short time (he was appointed in April) that he has not yet had time to make enemies or disappoint the electorate.
The Communists seem to be calculating that, if Pavlov was disqualified from the contest, Gordeev could withdraw his candidacy in protest and, because Russian law prohibits single-candidate elections, the election would have to be postponed until later in the year. By then, Ayatskov would be likely to have enacted some unpopular decisions that would lose him public support and Gordeev would be in a stronger position to challenge him. That, at least, is how local observers interpret the move to get Pavlov disqualified. But Monitor’s correspondent in Saratov believes that Ayatskov will not fall into the trap. Local election officials are beholden to the governor and will not risk their jobs by agreeing to the Communists’ demand.
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