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Yakovlev Wins St Petersburg Post

  • Brian Whitmore



St Petersburg, June 3 (RFE/RL) -- According to final preliminary results announced today by the St Petersburg Electoral Commission, Russia's second city has just elected its second chief executive.

Vladimir Yakovlev won the second-round vote by almost two percentage points: 47.5 percent of the vote compared to incumbent Mayor Anatoly Sobchak's 45.8 percent. Turnout was 44 percent of eligible voters.

Former Federation Council deputy Alexander Belyayev, who joined in a coalition with Yakovlev after the first round said that, "this is the beginning of a new period for the city, a period of stability, progress and concrete work." Belyayev also said that the success of the coalition - that also included Legislative Assembly Deputies Igor Artyemev and Vyacheslav Shcherbakov and Leningrad Oblast governor Alexander Belyakov - should serve as an example for federal authorities in the June 16 presidential election.

Yakovlev, addressing journalists referred to allegations that city authorities had applied pressure on local papers to cover the election from a pro-Sobchak perspective. "I know the pressure you have been working under," he said, "and I will never attempt to pressure you."

Today, Yakovlev said he will continue a reformist policy in Russia's second-largest city. He said democracy will not suffer in St Petersburg or Russia following his election.

Yakovlev also voiced support for President Boris Yeltsin, saying there is, in his words, "no alternative to Yeltsin."

St Petersburg is widely regarded as one of the country's pro-reform strongholds, and both Sobchak and Yakovlev were pro-reform candidates. Sobchak was elected in 1991 in the first round with more than 60 percent of the vote. Yakovlev had served as his deputy.

Our St Petersburg correspondent notes that a public opinion poll released just days before the vote had suggested Sobchak as a ten percentage point lead over Yakovlev, but with a significant number of voters still undecided.

Last week, the two candidates faced off in a debate shown live on local tv. The debate turned hostile several times, and City Electoral Commission officials requested that the candidates try to be positive and stick to the issues.

Sobchak suggested an allegedly communist agenda on Yakovlev's part, and pointed to an article favorable to Yakovlev in the pro-Communist paper Narodnaya Pravda (People's Truth). Yakovlev responded that trying to divide the city into "reds and whites" was counterproductive. Sobchak also hinted at "the hand of Moscow" and "big Moscow capital" financing Yakovlev.

Yakovlev, for his part decried what he termed censorship of the mass media on the part of Sobchak. He read aloud from an open letter from Nevskoye Vremya journalist Boris Vishnevsky decrying "political censorship" at the paper.

Journalist Vishnevsky and other reporters and editors claimed in the open letter that the newspaper had given in to financial pressure from Sobchak supporters, and had resorted to censorship of items critical of the incumbent.

Rather than the title "Mayor," Yakovlev will hold the title city "Governor."
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