ROAR: “Symbols” seen in list of candidates for Moscow Mayor

Each candidate for the capital city’s mayor on the list submitted to the president symbolizes a certain state or city priority, the media say.

Last Saturday, the leadership of the ruling United Russia party submitted the list to President Dmitry Medvedev. Analysts and media consider Deputy Prime Minister and Government Chief of Staff Sergey Sobyanin the most likely of the group. Three others are Transport Minister Igor Levitin, Nizhny Novgorod Region Governor Valery Shantsev and First Deputy Moscow Mayor Lyudmila Shvetsova.

Vedomosti daily has described the list of candidates as “symbolic.” The most likely candidate is Sobyanin, the paper said, adding that “three others symbolize the Kremlin’s priorities: stability, social sphere and the struggle against traffic jams.”

The list had been agreed with Dmitry Medvedev until the candidates were submitted,” the paper said. "The president managed to speak with all the candidates, and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was informed about the course of the consultations.

The thorough selection was to demonstrate that [former Mayor Yury] Luzhkov… was dismissed to improve the living conditions of Muscovites,” Vedomosti said, citing its sources. They do not doubt, the daily said, that “Sobyanin will become the mayor.

However, other candidates were selected to symbolize priorities in the government and city policies, the paper said. “Sobyanin headed Medvedev’s election campaign, he is the president’s deputy in the commission on modernization,” it noted.

Levitin is a man who can solve the problem of traffic jams,” according to Vedomosti. “Shevtsova, who is responsible for solving social issues in the Moscow government, will calm Muscovites down, making it clear that there will be no changes in that sphere.” Shantsev’s candidacy is a signal to the Moscow elite that there will be no redistribution of property, the daily noted.

Acting Moscow Mayor Vladimir Resin, who several days ago was even considered a favorite among possible candidates after he joined United Russia, could save his position under Sobyanin, Vedomosti wrote, citing anonymous sources in the city government.

But with all the seeming “symbols” in the list of candidates, the next mayor will have to resolve a number of issues rather than one problem, the paper said.

It is not clear if Sobyanin may retain his position as deputy prime minister if he heads the city. Analysts also wonder if the posts of mayor and the head of the city government will be divided between two people.

This situation is possible, believes Dmitry Orlov, director of the Agency of Political and Economic Communications. “It is clear from the list submitted to the president that this is not just a working idea,” he told Interfax agency.

According to the analyst, the strongest candidates are Sobyanin and Shantsev, and they could “form a tandem to rule the megapolis.” There are other assumptions, however, saying that whoever is chosen is unlikely to share its authorities with other candidates.

Anyway, the list of candidates demonstrates that the selection is being held based on candidates’ managerial skills rather than “by clan principles,” Orlov noted.

Sobyanin and Levitin have the highest chances, but the president has made several unexpected decisions in the past, Kommersant daily said. The sources in United Russia told the paper that Levitin’s candidacy was named “for intrigue.” As both men are considered “Putin’s people,” Shantsev and Shvetsova are figures linked with the Moscow elites and the federal center, political analyst Aleksandr Kynev told the paper.

Another daily, Novye Izvestiya, stressed that such a high-ranking official as Sobyanin would not be included in the list “just for the sake of appearances.”

Gennady Zyuganov, leader of the opposition Communist Party, has said that the search for candidates was “slightly protracted.” But those on the list “are not the worst option, at least there are no odious figures there,” Interfax quoted him as saying.

Although Sobyanin’s knowledge of Moscow is quite problematic, “he knows the country’s problems and this would help him,” Zyuganov said. Sobyanin, 52, was born in Tyumen Region and was its governor in 2001-2005.

If the three other candidates end up in the city government, it will be “very good for the capital,” the Communist leader noted.

The former Mayor Yury Luzhkov, who is in Austria, has taken the information about the list of candidates “rather calmly,” a source close to the politician told Interfax. “No doubt, the former mayor is not indifferent about who will become new mayor of Moscow,” the source added.

Speaking with members of United Russia on Saturday, Medvedev said that “Moscow has enough problems.” The key task of a new mayor “is to maintain living standards, solve social problems and continue the social policy at a new level,” he stressed.

On Monday, the president joked that California’s Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger could become Moscow’s mayor if he had Russia’s citizenship.

Sergey Borisov,
Russian Opinion and Analysis Review, RT