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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

When the Party's Over Yakovlev Should Scoot

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What a difference six months can make. In August, the hot political topic in St. Petersburg's newspapers was Governor Vladimir Yakovlev's plans to have the city charter amended so that he could run for a third term and the methods he was going to use to ensure this. On Saturday, Nezavisimaya Gazeta published a story saying Yakovlev is interested in becoming governor of the Leningrad region when his term in St. Petersburg ends in May 2004.

It seems unlikely that Yakovlev stands much chance of landing the job. For one thing, he would have to leave office early to campaign for the Leningrad gubernatorial election which is scheduled for September but may be postponed to December to coincide with State Duma elections.

More important, it is unlikely that Yakovlev would be able to unseat the incumbent Valery Serdyukov. Like Yakovlev, Serdyukov is very popular with the electorate. Unlike Yakovlev, Serdyukov also appears to be fairly popular with the presidential administration -- a source of support that some would argue is more important. Serdyukov was one of a group of officials accompanying President Vladimir Putin to Bulgaria last weekend. Yakovlev stayed at home.

But, while the rumor in the article is unlikely to come true, the theme indicates that we have come all the way from talking about extending Yakovlev's stay at Smolny to acting as if his present term has already effectively come to an end. He now fits perfectly the political definition of a lame duck.

The latest blow came Friday, when the city court found Yury Rydnik guilty of election violations in December's vote for the St. Petersburg legislature. Rydnik, a close Yakovlev ally (and as chairman of the board of Balt-Uneximbank, the governor's favorite banker) still has an appeal process at his disposal but, unless a higher court overturns the ruling, it appears the governor is going to lose the head of the bloc that supports him in the city assembly.

This begs a question: With his ability to control what is going on in the city during his last year in office apparently whittled down, why does Yakovlev have to stay? Preparing for the city's 300th-anniversary celebrations has been his occupation over the past year or so, but after the party is over there's nothing left to keep him in the job. Given his less-than-warm relations with the Kremlin, it seems likely that Moscow would be interested in seeing Yakovlev bow out early as well.

Deals offering soft landings for those who are willing to leave gubernatorial posts are nothing new. Former Primorye Governor Yevgeny Nazdratenko was given a job as head of the State Fisheries Committee. Perhaps they'll offer Yakovlev something in the state construction agency.

This comment appeared as an editorial in The St. Petersburg Times.