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Analysis: Samara Governor In Limbo

President Putin shaking hands with Governor Titov in 2000. Samara Oblast Governor Konstantin Titov finds himself in a curious position: The Russian Supreme Court, along with the local prosecutor's office and oblast court, all believe that his second term ended last month on 2 July, but a new election has not yet been scheduled. The head of the department for monitoring the observance of federal legislation at the Samara Oblast prosecutor's office, Lyudmila Gorozhanina, clarified the situation this way: "We are not confirming that Titov is not governor," she said. "The answer to this question will be given later," "Kommersant Daily v Samare" reported on 17 August.

Odd spots are not unusual for Titov. Four years ago, he resigned his post some eight months before a reelection battle. He claimed that this was in response to the regional electorate's vote of no confidence in him in the 2000 presidential election, but his abrupt departure forced the region to hold elections earlier than planned. And he, as an incumbent although a self-deposed one, was in the better position than his rivals to organize a campaign quickly.
"Vremya novostei" argued on 26 July that the Kremlin needs a governor in Samara "who is an absolutely reliable and loyal person."

It's so far unclear how Titov will be able to capitalize on this new uncertainty. The current legal snafu occurred because an oblast court ruled on 30 June that the passage of a law in 2000 by the oblast legislature changing Titov's current term in office from four to five years was invalid. It moved up the date for the next gubernatorial election from the summer of 2005 to 19 September. However, the Supreme Court suspended this decision on 22 July and the date of the next election remains unspecified. On 15 September, the Supreme Court is expected to render a final decision on the entire matter, according to "Kommersant v Samare." "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 17 August that it is generally expected that the court will set December as the date for the next election.

Titov's political opponents want him to leave office immediately. Sergei Nikologorskii, a member of the oblast election commission who is loyal to Titov's long-time rival, Samara Mayor Georgii Limanskii, sent a formal inquiry to the prosecutor's office asking about Titov's "misappropriation" of the governor's office. Former Deputy Governor Viktor Kazakov, who is likely to compete in the next election, told "Kommersant v Samare," "I cannot tell the court or prosecutor's office how to act in this situation, but I think that they should respond in accordance with the law." Other likely contenders are State Duma Deputy and member of the Unified Russia faction Vladimir Mokryi and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia member and State Duma Deputy Aleksei Chernyshov, "Novye izvestiya" reported on 17 August. According to the daily, Mokryi is not well-known in the region, although he was elected from a single-mandate district there. In addition, Natalya Bobrova, deputy speaker of the oblast legislature; Viktor Sazonov, speaker of the legislature; and Viktor Tarkhov, also of the oblast legislature, have already declared their intentions to run. Valerii Pavlyukevich, a local political analyst, told RFE/RL on 5 August that Tarkhov, a former top manager at Yukos, has the best chance so far of making it to the second round.

The Kremlin, however, might look askance at a former Yukos official overseeing Samara, where a significant number of Yukos enterprises are located. "Vremya novostei" argued on 26 July that the Kremlin needs a governor in Samara "who is an absolutely reliable and loyal person." And with the Supreme Court's decision delaying the election, it argued, the Kremlin gained time to identify its own candidate. Meanwhile, Unified Russia's Supreme Council decided on 29 July to support Titov in the race, RFE/RL's Samara correspondent reported. Titov, meanwhile, has gone on vacation. It appears to be a kind of odd, working vacation, since, as RFE/RL's Samara correspondent reported, oblast television continues to show Titov taking part in all official functions but now only as an "ordinary Samara citizen."

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