Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 57

Konstantin Titov, the Samara regional governor and presidential candidate, declared last week that the Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS) is on the verge of a split following the decision by its coordinating council to back Acting President Vladimir Putin in the March 26 State Duma election. Titov, who himself is a member of SPS’s coordinating council, said that when voters ask him why the SPS leadership is not supporting his presidential candidacy, he answers that they “like to bet on the favorites.” He said also that he has no plans to quit the SPS coordinating council (Russian agencies, March 14).

His presidential bid, however, may hurt him more than it does the SPS. Experts in Samara say that Titov, having lost his support at the federal level, could soon lose his support within the regional elite as well. This could have serious repercussions, given that gubernatorial elections are on the schedule in Samara this year. A local Samara newspaper noted that while Titov is in Moscow working on his presidential campaign, he is gradually losing control over the local Samara elite, which is consolidating around other gubernatorial candidates and distancing itself from his presidential campaign. A growing number of Samara politicians and officials have joined Putin’s election campaign, including State Duma Deputy Aleksandr Belousov, whose Duma race was openly backed by Titov (Samarskoe obozrenie, March 14). Vladimir Mokry, a former Samara vice governor who now heads the State Duma’s committee on local self-government, has been active in creating the Samara branch of the Unity party. Mokry was considered a strong supporter of Titov. Meanwhile, Titov’s attempts to get control over the creation of the local Unity branch have failed.

The local elite’s defection from Titov could accelerate if figures emerge who are able to steal away the governor’s former supporters, and if Moscow gets involved in the Samara governor’s race. The latter is quite possible: Samara could become the next region, after St. Petersburg, where the Kremlin “teaches a lesson” to a strong regional leader who assumes his position is unassailable.