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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Matviyenko Offers Higher City Profile, Rents

MTNew Governor Valentina Matviyenko speaking to reporters in a hall decorated with a portrait of Catherine the Great on Monday.
ST. PETERSBURG -- President Vladimir Putin's favored candidate, Valentina Matviyenko, celebrated Monday after comfortably winning the city's gubernatorial runoff with 63.17 percent of the vote, against 24.18 percent for her opponent, Vice Governor Anna Markova.

But the sheen was taken off Matviyenko's victory by a low turnout of 28.24 percent of the city's 3.7 million voters Sunday, similar to the first round. Those voting "against all" candidates totaled 11.75 percent.

"The city is the winner," Matviyenko said at a briefing at her election headquarters Monday morning. "St. Petersburg residents have won. They voted for the reconciliation of our great city as a center of national and world significance. They voted for a better life."

Later in the day, Matviyenko told reporters that her first goals would be to examine the city budget for next year and appoint her staff. She said the city needed 170 billion rubles ($5.4 billion) to provide services on a par with Moscow, and suggested that she might raise rents on city-owned commercial property to raise extra revenue.

Matviyenko also promised that she would use her influence to get one of the federal agencies to relocate to the city. "The move of a certain federal power structure to St. Petersburg will raise the city's status and level of life," she said. Putin is expected to visit the city Tuesday with Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Yakovlev to discuss goals for the new governor.

"I voted for Matviyenko because she promised to get rid of communal apartments in the city," said Lyudmila Kuzmina, 65, after voting at a polling station in the Admiralteisky district. "None of the [city] deputies remember about communal apartments, but we have lived in them from generation to generation."

Matvityenko's defeated rival, Markova, said Sunday night that she would have fought the election, even if she had known in advance that she would lose.

"I'm happy I expressed my point of view, despite the result," Interfax quoted her as saying. "This is not a loss. If I had the chance to repeat everything, I would have done the same, but a bit earlier."

Markova was initially barred from voting at a polling station located outside her district, with officials saying she did not have the correct documents, despite her name and passport data being on the voter list. Markova was later permitted to vote after the election commission reversed its decision.

Tatyana Protasenko, a senior researcher in the sociology department of the Russian Academy of Sciences, claimed Matviyenko's support came mainly from older people. "Those looking for a real alternative did not show up at the polling stations in the second round, because of their disappointment at the dominating presence of the presidential envoy in the campaign," she said.

But some election officials said the mix of voters was different. "In the first round it was above all elderly people," said Valery Zharekhin, the head of a polling station in the Admiralteisky District. "This time I saw young people showing up. I don't really understand where the old people went. Maybe they went mushroom picking."

Yevgeny Volk, head of the Moscow-based Heritage Foundation, said the election had been "a big victory for the party of power and for Putin himself, rather than for Matviyenko. This has strengthened his position in the city and prepared the ground for the State Duma and presidential elections [in the region]."