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Russia: Communists Organize To Remove St. Petersburg's Governor

St. Petersburg, 14 April 1997 (RFE/RL) - St. Petersburg's Electoral Commission has authorized an initiative group -- sponsored by the Communist Party -- to begin collecting signatures for a referendum that could force Governor Vladimir Yakovlev to resign

Organizers of the referendum cite a Yakovlev decision to raise apartment rents as their main complaint against him.

The Communists now have until mid-May to gather 150,000 signatures for a referendum containing two questions: "Do you think that Yakovlev's social-economic policies have lowered your standard of living?", and "Do you think that Yakovlev must resign as Governor of St. Petersburg?"

If the initiative group is able to gather the signatures, and after verification by the Electoral Commission, the Legislative Assembly has 30 days to set a referendum date. Local legislation stipulates that for the results of the referendum to stand, 50 percent of the city's eligible voters must turn out with a simple majority deciding each question.

Federal legislation on referendums stipulates that their results have the force of law. In the absence of a precedent, however, analysts are divided over whether or not a negative result for Yakovlev would be sufficient to force his resignation.

Yakovlev has little patience for the issue. At a press conference, he played the statesman, discussing recent or future meetings and discussions with President Boris Yeltsin, First Deputy Prime Ministers Boris Nemtsov and Anatoly Chubais, Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, and Finland's President Martti Ahtisaari.

Yakovlev said a referendum does not worry him. He laid the initiative to the ambition of his critics and the carping that is inevitable among politicians.