Governors Sticking To Their Old Posts

President Vladimir Putin is not going to take a seat in the State Duma -- for now -- a United Russia party official said Thursday.

But the law allows Putin, whose name appeared alone on the United Russia federal list for Sunday's Duma elections, to fill a spot in the legislature later if he so desires.

Andrei Vorobyov, the head of United Russia's executive committee, said the seat Putin was entitled to after the party's landslide win in the Duma vote would be given to a candidate on one of the party's regional lists.

"This is merely a mathematical calculation," Vorobyov said Thursday in faxed comments. "This is not something special being done by the party. It is done according to the law," he said.

The party has not announced who will get the seat, but sources inside the party said it was likely to be a candidate from its Magadan region list.

Central Elections Commission head Vladimir Churov said Tuesday that the final election results would be known by Dec. 17, after which candidates have five days to decide whether to take a seat.

But, according to an amendment to the election law approved by the Duma early this year, a candidate who declines a seat immediately after the election reserves the option to take it later, with the party's approval.

Putin is not the only high-profile figure on United Russia's party lists to have turned down a seat. In many regions, local governors and mayors were included at the top of the party's lists as what are referred to as campaign parovozy, or locomotives. Few, if any, are expected to abandon their current offices, and they are prohibited from serving in them and the legislature simultaneously.

A total of 65 governors ran on United Russia's regional lists, with all but those in the republic of Khakasia and St. Petersburg taking the top spot.

The result was that the vote played not just as a referendum on Putin at the national level, but on the governors he had appointed locally.

In some cases, the results were astounding. In a few districts in the republic of Mordovia, United Russia took more than 100 percent of the vote, Kommersant reported Thursday.

Mayor Yury Luzhkov and St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko, who said she ran on the United Russia list "to express her political position," are not taking Duma seats, their spokespeople said Wednesday.

"Luzhkov never said he would take a Duma seat," City Hall spokesman Yury Aidinov said. "It is a tradition in Russia for mayors and governors to lead the the party lists in their regions," he said.

Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel and Yekaterinburg Mayor Arkady Chernetsky are two more sticking with their current jobs.

"When I met with people I always said: 'Yes, I'm on the United Russia list, but don't look at me as someone looking for a Duma seat,'" Chernetsky said, Interfax reported Monday.

Rossel was No. 1 on the Sverdlovsk region list and Chernetsky was No. 2.

Chernetsky will run for reelection in Yekaterinburg, the capital of the Sverdlovsk region, in March. He said he had no idea who would fill the seat he is passing up.

"Do you think I can just leave and take the seat with me?" Chernetsky asked. "This is done automatically. For example, tomorrow [Rossel] asks me whether I am going to move into the Duma? I answer 'no,' and then everything is sorted out according to the rules."

Churov said the Duma breakdown would see United Russia get 315 seats, with 57 seats going to the Communists, 40 to the Liberal Democratic Party and 38 to A Just Russia.

It seems unlikely that any of the regional leaders from the United Russia list will opt for a place in the legislature.

So far, Orenburg Governor Alexei Chernyshev has also announced that he has no plans to move, Interfax reported.