Governors to Get Votes for Medvedev

Dmitry Medvedev first tapped the Kremlin's chief of staff to run his national presidential campaign. Now he is signing up governors to campaign for him in their regions.

St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko, Moscow First Deputy Mayor Vladimir Resin and Samara Governor Vladimir Artyakov are among the regional leaders who have agreed to head Medvedev's regional campaign headquarters, Vedomosti reported Wednesday, citing sources in the local administrations and United Russia.

Communist spokesman Pavel Shcherbakov criticized the development as a blatant abuse of Kremlin powers for electoral purposes. But he added that he was not surprised. "It would be hard to imagine anything else," he said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov refused to comment, saying he was not authorized to speak for Medvedev.

Zhanna Odintsova, a spokeswoman for Medvedev, also would not comment, saying she only spoke for Medvedev in his position as first deputy prime minister. She could not provide contact information for anyone on Medvedev's team authorized to comment.

Medvedev is expected to easily win the March presidential election after President Vladimir Putin backed his candidacy last month. Medvedev is running with United Russia, and, in registering his candidacy with election authorities, Medvedev announced that Kremlin chief of staff Sergei Sobyanin would serve as his national campaign manager.

Matviyenko could boost turnout for Medvedev in St. Petersburg. She is among the country's most powerful regional leaders and was tipped at one point as a possible successor for Putin.

Matviyenko's spokeswoman Natalya Kutobayeva said Wednesday that she would only be able to comment on whether Matviyenko would work with Medvedev next week, after she returned from a vacation. Resin's spokesman Igor Kanyovsky said he had no comment because the information was not yet official. Resin is the head of Moscow's construction department, which oversees the city's building boom.

Vedomosti said the other officials who would help direct Medvedev's campaign include Ulyanovsk Deputy Governor Alexander Bolshakov, First Deputy Chelyabinsk Governor Andrei Kosilov and Valery Sukhikh, a senior aide to Perm Governor Oleg Chirkunov.

"Of course this is not normal and does not accrue to the spirit of the Constitution," said Boris Dubin, a researcher with the Levada Center, an independent pollster. "But everything [in the election] will be like this because that is how the [Kremlin] has decided it will be. They do not want to take any risks."

Putin effectively has the power to hire and fire governors.

Medvedev was expected to embark on the campaign trail Wednesday with a tour of the Murmansk region, but instead he met with a mother credited with giving birth to Moscow's 100,000th baby in 2007. Odintsova, his spokeswoman, said Medvedev had "plenty of time" to start the campaign and go to Murmansk.

Medvedev is expected to focus on regions where United Russia won less than 58 percent of the vote in the State Duma elections last month. The party collected 55 percent in Murmansk.