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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Klimentyev's Man Loses Nizhny Poll




Nizhny Novgorod voters turned their backs on the flamboyant Communist millionaire who had hoped to ride into the mayor's office on the popularity of Andrei Klimentyev, the winner of a voided election in March.


After Klimentyev was convicted of embezzlement and thus barred from running in the new election held Sunday, he was replaced on the ballot by Vladimir Semago, the owner of a Moscow nightclub and a deputy in parliament's lower house.


But Semago ran third. The top vote-getter, with 33.5 percent, was Yury Lebedev, a former presidential envoy to the region who was fired after Klimentyev's victory. He was followed by local lawyer Dmitry Bednyakov, a former Nizhny Novgorod mayor, with 25 percent. Since neither received more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff will be held Oct. 11.


Nikolai Petrov, an analyst with the Carnegie Moscow Center, said voters passed over Semago because they didn't want a Muscovite as mayor of their city, Russia's third largest.


"A Moscow politician lost despite his strong position, and it is revealing," Petrov said. "People prefer their own local politician."


Semago had the support of Andrei Klimentyev's family, and Klimentyev's wife, Oksana, served as his campaign manager. His brother, Sergei Klimentyev, said he believed that the government's voiding of the March election after it was won by Andrei Klimentyev soured his brother's supporters on elections and they stayed home Sunday.


"People lost their belief in the rule of law," Sergei Klimentyev said. "Basically, people made a choice: Andrei Klimentyev or no one else."


While 51 percent of the 1 million registered voters turned out in March, only 38 percent came to the polls Sunday.


"People are just sick of elections," said Sergei Rodin, chairman of the regional election committee, explaining the lower turnout.


Semago himself was unavailable Monday. He flew to Italy on Saturday, the day before the election, said Asya Yusupova, his assistant in the Duma. It was unclear if the trip was for business or pleasure.


Klimentyev's victory in the March 29 election while he was on trial for embezzlement infuriated the Kremlin, and President Boris Yeltsin promptly fired his envoy to Nizhny Novgorod, Lebedev.


On April 1, the local election committee annulled the vote, citing campaign violations. The next day, Klimentyev's bail was withdrawn and he has been in jail ever since.


Klimentyev's supporters saw Moscow's hand behind the actions against him, and hundreds took to the streets of Nizhny Novgorod in protest.


Klimentyev was once a close friend of Boris Nemtsov, a former governor of the Nizhny Novgorod region who until Aug. 17 was a deputy prime minister. They had a falling-out when the embezzlement case was opened against Klimentyev in 1995.


Klimentyev was convicted in May of embezzling nearly $3 million of a $30 million Finance Ministry loan and sentenced to six years in prison.


He pursued his run for the mayor's office from his prison cell until Russia's Supreme Court upheld his conviction in August, barring him from the race. Semago then stepped in to take his place, inheriting Klimentyev's political team.