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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lebed May Run for Governor in Siberia




Kremlin outcast and presidential hopeful Alexander Lebed this week floated the idea of running for governor of Siberia's vast, mineral-rich Krasnoyarsk territory.


Analysts said that if he does run in the April 26 poll, it would be a huge gamble. Victory in the election would re-ignite the flagging political fortunes of the former paratrooper. But if he loses, it might extinguish his career for good.


On Thursday, Lebed for the first time addressed speculation about a possible candidacy, saying during a visit to the central Russian city of Yaroslavl that "there is such a possibility" and adding that his advisers were assessing the matter, Interfax reported.


Lebed's reply was characteristically ambivalent. But when compared to a visit to Krasnoyarsk late last year, when he dismissed the possibility of running for governor out of hand, Thursday's remarks would seem to indicate that Lebed has had a change of heart.


Lebed, who burst onto the political scene in 1996 with a strong third place finish in the first round of presidential elections, has made it clear he intends to run again in 2000. After his 1996 showing, President Boris Yeltsin appointed him head of the Security Council, but fired him three months later complaining that Lebed was usurping his power.


Since then, Lebed has been building his own political movement, the People's Republican Party, but lacks a high-profile job to keep him in the public eye.


"Lebed's popularity is fading," said Yevgeny Volk, director of the Heritage Foundation Moscow office. "He needs very much a kind of impetus for his political career. And being governor of such a large region could be very favorable to him as a starter for a presidential campaign."


Lebed, as a former general, could forge an alliance with the region's extensive network of defense industries, said Volk. Lebed would be next door to his younger brother, Alexei Lebed, who is governor of the Khakassiya region.


The downside for Lebed of running in Krasnoyarsk, according to political analyst Nikolai Petrov of the Moscow Carnegie Center, is that victory in the election is not a sure thing.


Lebed would probably face Governor Valery Zubov, a former economics professor who won with 70 percent of the vote in 1993. An advocate of free-market reforms who is not affiliated with a political party, he is widely expected to run again, although he has not announced his intentions.


If in the elections Lebed "could depend on victory, it would be a good move for him," Petrov said.


He said Lebed's election plans could be no more than bluff.


"I think it's more in his interest to drum up interest for a time ... not to participate in the election but to draw attention once again to himself," he said.


Lebed faces a potential problem with electoral regulations. He does not live in Krasnoyarsk and was elected in 1995 to the State Duma, parliament's lower house, from the central Russian city of Tula. Federal election law, on paper at least, requires one year's residency to run, although local law does not.


Other nonresident candidates have been able circumvent this through the courts. Former Vice President Alexander Rutskoy was elected governor of the Kursk region, although he had not met the one-year requirement, and Alexei Lebed was qualified for the Khakassiya race on the basis of army service there.