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St. Petersburg Election Enters Home Stretch

St Petersburg, May 15 (RFE/RL) -- With only days remaining before St Petersburg chooses its next chief executive, incumbent Mayor Anatoly Sobchak has a big lead over his nearest rival, former Federation Council deputy Yury Boldyrev. (The election is Sunday, May 19).

The most recent public opinion polls suggest Sobchak leads the pack with 35 percent support. Boldyrev is running second with 16 percent, a six percent increase from two weeks earlier. Vladimir Yakovlev, Sobchak's former deputy is third with seven percent.

In a development that could alter the race for second place, Legislative Assembly deputy Vyacheslav Shcherbakov, who is running fourth with six percent, yesterday announced he was withdrawing and cast his support to Yakovlev. Yabloko candidate, and Legislative Assembly deputy Igor Artyemev said Tuesday that he may also do so pending a decision of the local branch of Yabloko.

Earlier the three had announced an electoral alliance to pool their support behind one candidate to unseat Sobchak. It appears now that Yakovlev will be that candidate. It is still unclear if the combined support of the three candidates will be enough to move Yakovlev past Boldyrev and into second place. If no candidate wins a majority May 19, the top two candidates will face off in a run off on June 16.

The recent opinion polls also measure head to head match-ups in a potential second round. In a Sobchak-Boldyrev run off, the mayor is polling at 40 percent and Boldyrev at 32 percent with 17 percent undecided and 11 percent opposed to both (an option on the ballot).

In a run off with Yakovlev, Sobchak is leading 43 percent to 25 percent with 28 percent undecided and 10 percent against both.