ST PETERSBURG, Mar 11 (RFE/RL) -
St Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak has signed into law a measure
setting a St Petersburg "gubernatorial" election June 16.
The law provides that the successor to Mayor Sobchak, whose term
expires in June, will be known as St Petersburg's governor, a title
that suggests greater executive authority.
President Boris Yeltsin and his representative in St Petersburg,
Sergei Tsiplayev, objected to the law because the local election will
compete with the national presidential election (also Jun 16).
One controversial provision limits candidacy to persons who have
held a St Petersburg residency permits for one year prior to the
election. This effectively excludes potential candidates - including
former Federation Council deputy and Yabloko party co-founder Yuri
Boldyrev, and former Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais - who
have lived out of the city in their federal jobs.
Boldyrev, who often is mentioned as a likely gubernatorial
candidate, objected to the restriction. He has suggested that he had
anticipated some regulation aimed at himself. Asked last June if he
would run, Boldyrev said was awaiting a law that would allow only
people with blue eyes to run. He said: "Then I will be ineligible."
After the St Petersburg Legislative Assembly passed the electoral
law last month, Boldyrev was quoted as saying: "If our mayor is a
real man, he will veto (the law) and refuse to participate in this
An incentive for adoption of the St Petersburg electoral law came
from Alexander Belyayev, another former Federation Council Deputy and
declared mayoral candidate. Belyaev had warned that Communist Gennady
Zyuganov may win the presidency in June. Belyayev said that if
St Petersburg lacked an electoral law, Zyuganov might have an opening
to appoint a communist as mayor.
St Petersburg, the former Leningrad, is staunchly non-communist. The
leading Communist candidate is Yuri Severnard, who currently polls
three percent of the electorate.
The head of the city's legal department, Dmitri Kozak, defended the
residency provision. He said it is consistent with federal law on
elections to executive power at the regional level. Legislative
Assembly Deputy Victor Novoselov defended the timing of the election
also. He said it is consistent with the Russian Constitution. He
added that elections need to come at the end of Sobchak's term in
June. He added that holding city elections together with the
presidential poll in June will save electoral expense.
The new electoral law provides for a run-off between the top two
candidates if nobody achieves a majority in the first round of
voting. To have one's name placed on the ballot, a candidate must
collect 65,000 signatures of legal St Petersburg residents. The law
provides for free tv and radio time for each qualified candidate.
Sobchak was elected mayor of St Petersburg in June 1991.