A city festival is being celebrated in Saratov on August 30, as the city and its surrounding oblast prepare to elect a new governor on September 1. This will be the first time the region will choose a governor in a democratic election. Until now, President Yeltsin has appointed almost all of Russia’s governors, and the governors have appointed the mayors. That will change this fall, as voters throughout Russia go to the polls to choose governors and mayors for the first time.
Pop-stars and media personalities are due in Saratov today. Incumbent governor Dmitri Ayatskov, heavily favored to win reelection, has crisscrossed the oblast, not forgetting the smallest village. Every night this week, there have been discos in the city’s main square. To be sure of the youth vote, the start of the academic year has been brought forward and grumbling students have returned from vacation a week early to hear the rector of Saratov University exhort them to vote for Ayatskov. The mass media have been full of praise for Ayatskov’s policies. Pleading lack of funds, Communist challenger Anatoly Gordeev has restricted his campaign to door-to-door leafleting and the minimum TV and radio time provided free of charge. The third candidate, Valentin Pavlov, has disappeared. Monitor’s correspondent in the region says that, as a result, many voters are not even aware that there are any candidates other than Ayatskov.
A Snapshot of the Regional Elite.