Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 77

April 14 was the deadline for candidates wishing to run for governor of St. Petersburg to submit lists of signatures in support of their candidacies. These lists were required in order to validate a candidate’s registration, whereupon the candidate has the right to begin campaigning. The St. Petersburg gubernatorial election is set for May 14. The first candidates to be registered were incumbent Governor Vladimir Yakovlev, city council deputy Andrei Korchagin and businessman Artem Tarasov, a resident of the British capital, London. Potential candidates who have submitted lists of signatures include Igor Artemev, head of the St. Petersburg affiliate of the Yabloko party; Yuri Boldyrev, deputy head of the federal Audit Chamber and head of the political movement that bears his name; and Yuli Rybakov, leader of the local branch of Democratic Russia (Russian agencies, April 14).

It is evident from this list that all the declarations by representatives of the center-right about the need to rally around a single candidate have come to naught. A flood of such declarations followed Putin’s decision to withdraw the candidacy of Valentina Matvienko, who had until then been supported by various pro-Kremlin political groups (see the Monitor, April XX). Meanwhile, Yakovlev has been consolidating his position. According to a recent poll by the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM), Yakovlev’s popularity rating has risen to 58.4 percent, up from 54.8 at the end of March (Russian agencies, April 10). Yakovlev has become the focal point for a range of groups that had until recently supported Matvienko. Representatives of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) and the All Russia movement have come out in support of Yakovlev–who is a leader of All Russia–as has the St. Petersburg branch of the Fatherland movement. Fatherland’s federal leadership has not, however, declared its support for Yakovlev (Russian agencies, April 11).

Russian media speculate that Yakovlev and Putin have cut a deal, and that all that remains to be discussed are the conditions to be attached to Yakovlev’s victory. According to some reports, Yakovlev’s victory will be only nominal: Real power in St. Petersburg will be shifted onto the shoulders of the regional representative of the federal government (Russian agencies, April 14). This would chime in with other reports, according to which Putin intends to increase his presence in the regions by enhancing the status of the president’s regional representatives, who have not until now enjoyed any real power in the regions.

There are however some possibilities that the Kremlin may not yet have abandoned all hope of removing Yakovlev. With the election only a month away, St. Petersburg has suddenly been hit by an energy crisis which has threatened to halt the city’s trams and trolley buses and to close down schools, colleges and even some factories (Russian agencies, April 10-12). Yakovlev tends to blame this on Anatoly Chubais, head of Russia’s giant electricity grid, whom the governor suspects of harboring a grudge against him (Sobesednik, April 13). Yakovlev seems, moreover, to suspect that Chubais is acting at the Kremlin’s bidding, in an effort to discredit Yakovlev among the voters.