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City news, 27.06.2003 19:32

Governor race gets expected candidate, 27 June

Valentina Matviyenko, presidential representative to the Northwest Region The race to succeed Vladimir Yakovlev as governor of St. Petersburg took a long-expected twist on Tuesday when Valentina Matviyenko, presidential representative to the Northwest Region, announced that she will run for the post of governor of St. Petersburg.

"My decision is final and firm," Matviyenko was quoted by Interfax as saying on Tuesday.

"I wasn't thinking about becoming governor of St. Petersburg when I came [up from Moscow] to work as presidential representative," Matviyenko said. "However, when I saw the state of the city I wanted to make do as much as possible to change it for the better."

Matviyenko said she has already set up a team to canvas local opinion of the city's most pressing problems to help her form her program when she officially registers as a candidate.

"This is not a spontaneous decision," she said. "I thought for quite a while, had discussions with businesses, the political elite and citizens. I looked at my options [and] think my experience can be used."

Matviyenko said that one of her goals, if she is elected, would be to reform the City Administration to make it more open and decentralized, with district administrations getting more power and more money from the city budget. She also called for more input from both Russian and foreign business into how the city should be run, saying that St. Petersburg is currently entering a new stage of development

Matviyenko was head of the Leningrad city council's committee for culture and education until 1989.

Shortly after Matviyenko's announcement on Tuesday, the pro-Kremlin Unity faction in the State Duma and a number of federal-level politicians voiced support for her candidacy.

The politicians who voiced their support for Matviyenko on Tuesday included Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov and former Governor Vladimir Yakovlev, now deputy prime minister in charge of communal-services reform.

Yakovlev said recently that he was expecting a tough battle for the job of governor, but has seemingly revised his opinion and said Tuesday that Matviyenko has no serious competitors. Speaking on national NTV television, he also said that he thought Vice Governor Anna Markova - who polled just 0.8 percent support in the March poll, with 9.5 percent against - should withdraw her candidacy, which she announced on June 5.

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(c) 2000