Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 73

Following his defeat in Russia’s March 26 presidential election, Konstantin Titov has resigned from his post as governor of Samara Oblast (Russian agencies, April 4). Titov, who won only some 1.5 percent of the vote, is only the second regional leader to leave his post voluntarily. Nearly three years ago–on April 21, 1997–then governor of Irkutsk Oblast, Yuri Nozhikov, announced his intention to leave office.

Titov, an influential governor considered the informal leader of the Bolshaya Volga Interregional Association, said that he had decided to step down on the basis of the scanty support he found in Samara Oblast (Radio Ekho Moskvy, April 6). Titov won only 20 percent of the vote in Samara, coming in third, behind Vladimir Putin and Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov. Given these results, Titov said, it would not be possible for him “to continue to work normally” (Russian agencies, April 6).

On April 6, the Samara Oblast Duma supported Titov’s request to step down, with only one vote against (Radio Ekho Moskvy, April 6). The local Duma set June 2 of this year as the date for a new gubernatorial election. Titov’s decision was applauded by his comrades in the Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS). SPS leader Sergei Kirienko declared that “He has acted with courage… the SPS will definitely support Titov” (Russian agencies, April 5).

Kirienko’s words put what has happened in a new light. Back on April 4, Aleksandr Veshnyakov, chairman of Russia’s Central Election Commission, indicated that Titov could take part a in pre-term gubernatorial election, but added that he did not understand how short-term elections and leaving office could be squared “from the moral point of view” (Russian agencies, April 4). Titov himself admitted that he was not ruling out participating in the upcoming election. He would participate, he said, if the people gave him their trust (Radio Ekho Moskvy, April 4). The people immediately began to demonstrate their trust: On April 7, the workers of the Volzhsk auto factory held a meeting during which they unanimously adopted an appeal to Titov to participate in the June election (Russian agencies, April 7).

Titov’s actions do not fall far outside the traditions adhered to by Russia’s governors. Participating in elections after voluntarily resigning is hardly less moral than the more common practice of changing the date of the elections out of the desire to win them. The situations are analogous: while Titov was campaigning for the presidency, many of his supporters quit his team and a strong opposition began to form in the oblast (Samarskoe obozrenie, March 14). The opposition, however, will not have enough time to develop its candidate before the June vote. Nonetheless, an election team for Viktor Tarkhov, vice president of the Alliance group, has been set up (Vremya novosti, April 7). Tarkhov is close to the communists and is known in the oblast. He is supported by the Yukos oil company, a competitor to the Volgopromgaz holding which is, in turn, close to Titov. General Albert Makashov, the well-known radical nationalist State Duma deputy, is also planning to run for election as governor of Samara (NTV, April 9).