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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Suspending Judgment on Matviyenko

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In 1996, the nation held its nose and voted for Boris Yeltsin, not because it liked him, but because they didn't want to see Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov in the Kremlin. In 2003, Petersburgers voted for Valentina Matviyenko, not necessarily because they like her, but because they have had enough of living with a leader at loggerheads with the Kremlin.

They hope that several large infrastructure projects, including the ring road and repairs to a main metro line, may now finally be completed. The city is apparently incapable of financing these projects on its own and Matviyenko's close ties to the Kremlin are seen as the best guarantee that a good chunk of federal funds will come the city's way.

Elections are supposed to be about choice, and St. Petersburg, with its sophisticated electorate and above-average share of liberal voters, is quite capable of making up its own mind. But the Kremlin didn't want to leave anything to chance in the northern capital, treating the gubernatorial election not too differently to the presidential election in Chechnya, where its candidate also won on the weekend.

Former Governor Vladimir Yakovlev was kicked upstairs before serving out his term. Just before this, Matviyenko was parachuted in as presidential envoy to the Northwest Federal District, after her predecessor, bully boy Viktor Cherkesov, had done his best to clear the way for her gubernatorial bid.

Nevertheless, the blatant overuse of so-called administrative resources -- police harassment of anyone not campaigning for Matviyenko; saturation advertising of her name and image; and President Vladimir Putin personally endorsing her candidacy on national television -- did not quite produce the outright, first-round victory the Kremlin was looking for.

Matviyenko was clearly troubled that she had fallen just short of the 50 percent mark in the first round on Sept. 21.

The Kremlin, apparently wising up to the fact that its heavy-handedness had been counterproductive, opted for a slightly more low-profile approach in the weeks before the run-off.

However, just because Matviyenko's victory was achieved by dubious methods does not mean she should immediately be written off as "damaged goods." On the contrary, she should be given a chance to prove herself.

We will be watching to see how she fulfills her campaign promises, one of the main ones being her pledge to come to grips with the city's ailing housing sector. Let's hope there is more to her election than Putin getting even with Yakovlev -- the man who defeated his mentor Anatoly Sobchak back in 1996.