The battle for the governorship of Oryel Oblast grows fiercer as election day–October 28–approaches. On one side is incumbent governor Yegor Stroev, who doubles as speaker of the upper chamber of the Russian parliament. On the other is the regional branch of the Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS), which has gone to court to try to prevent Stroev’s winning a third term in office (Russian agencies, October 9, 15).
The SPS filed its first legal challenge on October 9, arguing that the Oryel Oblast charter limits a governor to two terms in office (Polit.ru, October 9). A week later the SPS was back in court, accusing Stroev of failing to declare his income, bribing local officials to collect the signatures he needs to register as a candidate and manipulating the schedule under which candidates are granted airtime on local radio and TV (Polit.ru, October 15-16).
According to the local press, Stroev’s re-election was a foregone conclusion as soon as two leading members of the SPS were barred from the race. Those two are Vyacheslav Alekseev, formerly deputy head of the oblast administration, and Vladimir Kapustyansky, formerly head of the oblast’s internal affairs department. According to the regional election commission, the signature lists each submitted contained significant numbers of forgeries. Moreover, Kapustyansky’s campaign fund was declared to have exceeded the legal limit, and Alekseev was faulted for failing to declare money he had made from the sale of a garage (Orlovskoe Informburo, October 10). Now the only challengers Stroev faces are the director of a local brick factory, the head of the regional statistics committee and a university professor. All are virtually unknown to the public (Kommersant.ru, October 9).
The SPS is not giving up without a fight. If the oblast court rejects their complaints, they say, they will appeal all the way to the Russian Supreme Court (Polit.ru, October 17). But they are clutching at straws. It is universally recognized that a regional leader can be challenged on his own turf only if he has lost the support of the regional elite or of the Kremlin. Stroev has lost neither. His control over the regional elite was demonstrated when the oblast Duma demolished the SPS’s case by simply deleting from the oblast charter the clause restricting the number of terms a governor may serve (Kommersant, October 16). As for the Kremlin, it showed its hand when Frantz Klintsevich, a leading member of the pro-Putin Unity Party, announced that Unity was supporting Stroev’s candidacy (Polit.ru, October 16).
A THREE-SIDED RACE IN SAKHA.