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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Schwarzenegger's Bid Turning Heads

APArnold Schwarzenegger talking to reporters in Los Angeles shortly after announcing his plans to run for governor this month.
At least seven regions, including Chechnya and St. Petersburg, are electing leaders by the end of September, but average folks and the media alike seem to be more captivated by a vote looming thousands of kilometers away: Arnold Schwarzenegger's bid for the California governor's post.

Since the 56-year-old muscle-bound movie star threw his hat into the ring for the Oct. 7 election earlier this month, the local press have been devoting page upon page to his political ambitions.

Some are drawing parallels to the Russian political scene, and others are suggesting that the U.S. Constitution might be amended to allow the Austrian-born "Terminator" to run for the U.S. presidency.

Moskovsky Komsomolets headlined a recent story "Terminatora v Gubernatory," or "Terminator for Governor," while Vedomosti went with the simple "Terminator 4."

NTV television on its Monday evening news aired a two-minute segment recounting a Los Angeles Times report about Schwarzenegger's father's ties to the Nazi regime.

"For Russians, Schwarzenegger is an icon and probably even more popular than most Russian stars because he was one of the first Western icons to be introduced to Russians in the late 1980s," said Yevgeny Volk, a political analyst and the head of the Heritage Foundation think tank.

Scratchy black market videos of Schwarzenegger as "Terminator," "Commando," and, perhaps most infamously, the Soviet cop Ivan Danko in "Red Heat" began seeping into the Soviet Union during perestroika.

"The interest in the California election is likely based on the fact that there is an obvious lack of personalities on the domestic political arena," Volk said. "There is hardly anyone here who could match Schwarzenegger's personality or even physique."

Efforts by Russian celebrities to break into political life have been somewhat less spectacular than Schwarzenegger's bid.

Former weightlifter Yury Vlasov ran for president in 1996, but he failed to garner even 1 percent of the vote. The current State Duma does have among its deputies actor Nikolai Gubenko, crooner Iosif Kobzon and wrestling champion Alexander Karelin.

An informal poll on the streets of Moscow showed residents were well aware of the California vote.

"It will be interesting to see what will come out of it. What if he starts to govern like a Terminator?" local businessman Ilya Tarasov, 35, said, laughing.

Tarasov said the only Russian politician who even comes close to Schwarzenegger is Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the flamboyant leader of Liberal Democratic Party.

Others said figures like Schwarzenegger would be welcome in Russian politics, but they found it hard to name anybody cut out for the task. "It would be nice to have a more creative mayor than Yury Luzhkov," said Anna Spasova, 17. But she could not offer any alternative.

Well-known artist Nikas Safonov agreed that Russia could use a Schwarzenegger of its own. "Schwarzenegger is a very goal-oriented person," he told Izvestia. "If we had a Schwarzenegger, young people would vote for him. ... It is also important that he is rich. He is not going to steal. We need someone like this here, too."

Yana Valueva contributed to this report.