RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly
Vol. 3, No. 4, 23 January 2003
REGIONAL LEADERS AND THEIR CORPORATE SPONSORS. In a long article from the journal "Politburo" reprinted on politcom.ru on 17 January, analyst Rostislav Turovskii argues, among other things, that Russian business groups will play an important role during this year's round of gubernatorial and presidential elections. In many cases, Turovskii says, they will reinforce the trend of electing incumbents. For example, in Vologda Oblast, Severstal is firmly backing incumbent Governor Vyacheslav Pozgalev, which will make unseating him virtually impossible. Likewise, the stable relations enjoyed by Sibneft with Omsk Governor Leonid Polezhaev and Yukos with Tomsk Governor Viktor Kress make those elections fairly predictable affairs.
According to Turovskii, the results of 10 or 11 of the 17 gubernatorial/presidential elections can be easily predicted, although the date of these races has not yet been set. Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov announced earlier that such races could be held on the same date as the December State Duma elections or the March 2004 presidential election.
Turovskii argues that many of the incumbent leaders are practically assured victory because "for many years, they have eliminated any alternatives and have built up their own administrative opportunities." Tambov Oblast Governor Oleg Betin, Moscow Oblast Governor Boris Gromov, Mordovia head Nikolai Merkushkin, Novgorod Governor Mikhail Prusak, Belgorod Oblast Governor Yevgenii Savchenko, Tomsk Governor Kress, Vologda Governor Pozgalev, and Omsk Governor Polezhaev are all extremely likely to be re-elected, Turovskii writes.
However, in the few regions where the large corporations would like to unseat the current regional executive, the races are likely to be the most interesting and unpredictable. In Novosibirsk, Siberian Aluminum and Alfa Group together would like to "dismiss" Governor Viktor Tolokonskii, who has tried to hinder their attempts to take over the Novosibirsk Electrical Factory, Turovskii writes. They may tap Ivan Starikov, who is currently a representative for Kostroma Oblast in the Federation Council and who earlier lost a bid to become head of Novosibirsk in the last race. Or they may seek a completely new candidate. In Yaroslavl, the privatization of Slavneft disrupted relations among the local economic elite, and the attitude of Gazprom, Sibur, and of Oleg Deripaska and Roman Abramovich toward incumbent Governor Anatolii Lisitsyn remains unclear. Turovskii asserts that the race in Leningrad Oblast will feature the most "complex and rich intrigues" of this election season because of the competing interests in the region, such as Surgutneftegaz, MDM Group, Siberian Aluminum, and St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev. In Sverdlovsk Oblast, incumbent Governor Eduard Rossel is considered to still have a fighting chance, despite the Kremlin's distaste for him, because of the strong role that will be played by Eurazholding, YGMK, SUAL, MDM Group, Sibneft, Tyumen Oil Company, Gazprom, Itera, and the Urals Pipe Factory. JAC