Author`s name Michael Simpson

Gubernatorial Elections: Sad Results?

The events brought no sensation at all as the former governors retained their positions
Last Sunday gubernatorial elections took place in three of Russia's Federation units.

As for Russia's Novgorod and Omsk Regions where gubernatorial elections were held the incumbent governors managed to win the 50 per cent plus one vote that are required for the victory. As for the Sverdlovsk Region, the second round of elections must be held there to find out the winner. At that, one more round of elections will be a mere formality as the incumbent governor approached the mark of 50 per cent very close, he won about 44 per cent of votes. His closest rival managed to win just 14 per cent which means that Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel may win the elections easily. 

As is seen from the results of the elections, we can say that Russian regions are forming elites of their own which live according to the local laws and thus get actually very strong. We observe a so-called syndrome of gubernatorial longevity: it is not ruled out that majority of governors will probably rule their regions for over two decades.

Novgorod Governor Mikhail Prusak and Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel have been at head of their regions since 1991; Omsk Governor Leonid Polezhayev has been on the post since 1989. The list of long-ruling governors can be supplied with more governors: Tomsk Governor Viktor Kress, Samara Governor Konstantin Titov, Yaroslavl Governor Anatoly Lisitsin and others have been on their posts for several periods.

This may seem strange but not rivals, the electorate became the main competitor to the incumbent governors at the recently-held elections. Over the years of gubernatorial activities the heads of regional administrations have managed to neutralize any potential rival on their territories. This is perfectly evident from pre-election lists of candidates and from the results of the elections. In the city of Novgorod, rivals of the incumbent governor Mikhail Prusak (there were a nationalist from Moscow, a second-rate businessman prosecuted for swindle and one of Zhirinovsky's team-mates who opened the first bio toilet in the city) won the maximum of just 4 per cent.  In Omsk the situation was practically the same. The gubernatorial elections there were marked with one peculiarity only: representative of the oppositional communists Leonid Mayevsky turned out to be a very strong rival for Leonid Polezhayev. However, this candidate managed to win just half of the votes the electorate gave to the incumbent governor.

Other candidates running for the gubernatorial position could hardly be called rivals at all: mostly their friends and acquaintances helped those candidates win 1-2 per cent.

The activity of the electorate is surprisingly low this time. According to provisional data provided by the Omsk Regional Election Commission, only 44.98 per cent of the registered voters came to election centers. At that, the percentage of countryside voters participating in the elections made up 70-80 per cent on average. Thus, at least two thirds of votes were given to Leonid Polezhayev in the countryside of the region. As for the cities and towns of the region, they gave the
governor less votes.

As for the Novgorod Region, 36 per cent of the voters registered there participated in the elections. In the Sverdlovsk Region, the attendance made up 33 per cent of voters.

So, we thus arrive at a sad conclusion that the governors have been once again elected with the minority vote. This happens for a rather obvious reason: majority of people are sure that the incumbent governor will still win the elections. This opinion is supported with the lack of any probable candidates which in its turn results in low interest of the electorate to the elections.

Igor Pridorogin