By Paul Goble
The expectation by some governors that other governors will support them in every way is clearly misplaced to judge by a somewhat strange incident involving Leonid Markelov, the governor of Mari El, and Nikita Belykh, the governor of neighboring Kirov oblast.
While this case involves something trivial, it does call attention to the fact that if any opposition figure did take power in one of the regions or even municipalities in the Russian Federation, he or she could behave in ways that might affect political outcomes far beyond the borders of his or her own fiefdom.
And the risks of that are certainly one of the drivers pushing the Putin regime in the direction of a single-party dictatorship lest someone using the remaining vestiges of federalism in the Russian Federation might behave in precisely that way, creating problems that could potentially send shockwaves through a variety of federal subjects.
On October 19, “Novaya gazeta” reports today, Markelov gave a press conference at which he denounced the Kirov governor for allowing Sergey Mamayev, who was Markelov’s opponent in the recent gubernatorial elections to print his campaign literature and signs in Kirov oblast (novayagazeta.ru/politics/70432.html).
Belykh’s willingness to do so, Markelov said, showed a lack of “corporate” sensitivity and respect. “I don’t know why Kirov oblast became the battle staff against Markelov,” Markelov continued speaking of himself in the third person as he often does. Other oblast leaders “chose a different way of behaving” and didn’t print Mamayev’s broadsides.
Even before Markelov’s press conference, the government-controlled media launched a series of attacks on Kirov oblast and its leadership, comparing it unfavorably with Markelov’s fiefdom. So far, “Novaya gazeta” reports, officials and the media in Kirov oblast have not responded in kind.
One Duma deputy, however, has responded, suggesting that Markelov should be concentrating on the problems in his own republic rather than looking for them elsewhere – especially since he barely squeaked through the 50 percent barrier in the first round of gubernatorial elections.
Markelov who is deeply unpopular with many groups in his republic and who routinely ranks low on the lists of effective heads of federal subjects got only 50.76 percent of the vote. His opponent Mamayev received 32.31 percent and has appealed to the courts to invalidate the 0.77 percent of the ballots that would be necessary to force a second round.