St Pete governor accepts proposal to chair upper house

Valentina Matvienko (Photo from http://www.weforum.org/)
Following a meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev, St Petersburg Governor Valentina Matvienko agreed to be nominated to the post of Russia’s third highest ranking official – the Federation Council Speaker.

After a tet-a-tete between Medvedev and Matvienko in the Kremlin, the presidential press secretary Natalia Timakova announced that the St Petersburg Governor would agree to head the parliament’s upper house.

“Valentina Matvienko will hold all necessary consultations with the Council of the [upper] house and will start procedures that are necessary to be nominated [for the post],” she said, reports Ria Novosti.

Matvienko arrived in Moscow on Tuesday to meet with Medvedev and sought his advice on whether to accept the proposal or not. Prior to the closed door talks, the two held a meeting which was open to the media. Matvienko told the president that she still had not made a final decision and was weighing her options.

“On the one hand side, I feel responsibility towards the city (St Petersburg), on the other – the post of the Federation Council Speaker is a huge responsibility,” Matvienko said, cites Itar-Tass.

Dmitry Medvedev pointed out that it would be good for the state if she decided to head the Federation Council.

“But the decision on this matter is not to be made by the president. I had my say," he said, quotes Interfax agency. Medvedev welcomed the St Petersburg governor’s idea to discuss the issue with other regional heads. "Perhaps, it is right to do as you say – hold consultations with colleagues from the regions."

Medvedev praised Matvienko’s work as the governor of Russia’s second largest city as “very successful”, adding that he was not speaking in the capacity of the president but as “a person who was born in Leningrad (the Soviet name for St Petersburg)”. He observed that in recent years, the city has improved significantly and “it is nice to look at the streets, buildings and courtyards”.

“Of course, there are enough problems in St Petersburg,” he said, noting it is a common reality for any huge city such as Moscow, Ney York or Paris.

Medvedev also mentioned that he was quite enthusiastic about the idea of nominating Matvienko as speaker, an idea which was put forward by several regional heads on June 24. There is a feeling among the “governors’ corps” that the Federation Council’s potential could be better maximized, with many pinning their hopes for improvements on a new speaker. “I understand it perfectly well,” he added.

The post has remained vacant since May of this year, when Deputies of the St Petersburg’s Legislative Assembly voted to recall the previous speaker, Sergey Mironov, who represented the city in the upper house.

Matvienko, 62, has been the governor of Russia’s northern capital for over seven years, since she was first elected in 2003.If she accepts the proposal to become the Federation Council Speaker, she will become the first woman in modern Russia to occupy such a high post.

Earlier last week, while commenting on the regional governors’ idea, Medvedev observed that if such a central post in “the state hierarchy” is occupied by a woman, it will contribute to efforts to modernize and develop Russia.