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Russia: Khloponin Wins Krasnoyarsk Governor Election

Moscow, 23 September 2002 (RFE/RL) -- The former director of a massive metals company edged out a regional parliamentary speaker to win gubernatorial elections in the vast Siberian region of Krasnoyarsk.

According to the Central Elections Commission, Aleksandr Khloponin landed just over 48 percent of the vote to beat out Krasnoyarsk legislative assembly speaker Aleksandr Uss, who gained almost 42 percent in the Sunday runoff of first-round elections held earlier this month.

The elections were held to replace the flamboyant Aleksandr Lebed, a former general who died in a helicopter crash in April.

Khloponin is former general manager of the Norilsk Nickel metals company and current governor of Taimyr Autonomous Okrug, which is part of Krasnoyarsk. The Kremlin and a number of prominent politicians across the political spectrum hailed his victory.

Khloponin's win marks another step in the expanding influence of large industrial groups in regional politics. But analysts say that as a young manager -- as opposed to a privately wealthy businessman -- Khloponin represents a new type of regional politician.

Sergei Komaritsyn, a sociologist and editor of the local "Vechernii Krasnoyarsk" newspaper, said Khloponin may be poised to address the region's problems. "He's young enough -- he's only 37 years old -- and he needs to show what he can do when he becomes governor because it's clear that the position of Krasnoyarsk governor isn't the limit for him. He has a professional and very dynamic biography, and he really is an ambitious person. It's unlikely that he'll limit himself with the Krasnoyarsk region, but he has to show results from his work," Komaritsyn said.

Uss beat out Khloponin in the first round with almost 28 percent of the vote, compared to Khloponin's 25 percent. The other two major contenders in the campaign, Communist Party ideologue Sergei Glazev and Krasnoyarsk Mayor Petr Pimashkov, did not make the runoff.

Interfax quoted Khlopinin as saying today that his main tasks will be to create an effective social policy and to make sure that fuel and other goods traveling to Krasnoyarsk's frozen Arctic regions make it to their destinations in time for winter.

Komaritsyn said Khloponin's largest chore will be to address Krasnoyarsk's myriad financial problems, many of which grew worse during Lebed's administration. The region boasts 16 percent of the country's officially bankrupt companies and runs a budget deficit, despite its wealth of natural resources.

Behemoth Norilsk Nickel, the world's largest nickel producer, contributes about 65 percent of the region's budget, a fact Komaritsyn said the new administration will have to balance by adopting a coherent budget policy, something Lebed failed to do.

Despite his failure to win a majority of the vote in the capital -- as did Lebed, who faced constant battles with other regional politicians -- Khloponin has a number of factors in his favor.

One major plus is the backing of powerhouse Interros holding company, which controls Norilsk Nickel, is responsible for around 3 percent of Russia's gross domestic product, and which has significant influence within the Kremlin.

The current lay of Krasnoyarsk's internal politics may also help the new governor. After years of internecine fighting, the political and economic elite appears ready for stability.

But the long-term legacy of Khloponin's governorship, as well as the prospects for his political future, may lie in how he addresses administrative reform long pressed by the Kremlin.

At the top of that agenda is the status of the industrial region in which Norilsk Nickel is located. Nominally run from the regional capital, it lies within the territory of Taimyr, which has closely guarded its independence and the flows of tax money that have come with it. Komaritsyn called the situation "absurd."