Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 235

The second and final round of voting for St. Petersburg’s legislative assembly took place Sunday. According to preliminary results, the Yabloko Party, led by economist Yuri Boldyrev, which had the strongest showing in the first round of voting on December 6, won only eight seats of the contested fifty, far less than either than either the party or independent observers expected. On the other hand, the bloc led by Yuri Boldyrev, a founder of Yabloko who later broke with the party, won fifteen or sixteen seats–which would make it the single biggest party in the local legislature. Final official results will be released Tuesday (December 22). Communist-backed candidates won five seats, while the coalition Soglasiye-Obedinenniye Demokraty (Accord-United Democrats), backed by notables like Yegor Gaidar and Anatoly Chubais, won only one seat. The bloc Severnaya Stolitsa, which the late Galina Starovoitova helped found, did not make it into the second round of voting. Starovoitova, a leader of the Democratic Russia movement and a deputy in Russia’s State Duma, was murdered in St. Petersburg on November 20. The turnout for yesterday’s second round was 31.8 percent, about 10 percent lower than the first round (Russian agencies, December 21).

Anywhere from fourteen to eighteen seats were won by independent candidates. Some observers believe that the independents in St. Petersburg’s next legislative assembly will largely be loyal to Vladimir Yakovlev, the regional governor. Indeed, some members of Yabloko charged that the Yakovlev administration used dirty tricks against their party in the run-up to the second round of voting. On Friday, Vladimir Lukin, a co-founder of Yabloko, who formerly served as Russia’s ambassador to the United States and currently heads the Duma’s foreign relations committee, said that a “St. Petersburg list” of candidates pushed by the city administration in the final days of the campaign included both hard-line communists and “a large number of people with a very shady reputation who have remained from the first round.” A large number of candidates allegedly backed by criminal groups ran in the first round. Lukin also said that several of Boldyrev’s candidates were on the city administration’s “St. Petersburg list” (RTR television, December 18). This was apparently part of the governor’s strategy to play Yabloko and Boldyrev’s bloc against one another.

On Saturday, a local television channel controlled by the regional administration rebroadcast a program which claimed that “certain circles in the West are prepared to encourage the fall of Russia, with the assistance of democrats.” The program fingered both Anatoly Chubais and Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky–who are hardly allies–adding that only Governor Yakovlev “can defend St. Petersburg from Moscow’s influences” (Ekho Moskvy radio, December 19).

Yuri Boldyrev–who is a deputy head of the Audit Chamber, an independent federal agency established by the Duma as a watchdog over how federal money is spent–may view the success of his bloc in St. Petersburg as a green light to enter national politics. If so, he may pose a challenge to his former ally Grigory Yavlinsky for that part of the electorate which is democratic and anticommunist but also opposes “reformers” like Chubais and Gaidar.