Move on Matviyenko?


St Petersburg Governor and fashion icon Valentina Matviyenko


Alexander Aleshkin

Is St Petersburg’s widely reviled governor on her way out of the city?

Yes, if President Dmitry Medvedev gets his way.

The government has been looking for a replacement for Sergei Mironov, who was kicked out of his long held spot as head of the Federation Council (Russia’s upper house of parliament) last month. Historically, it’s not a very powerful position, and the council holds less sway than the State Duma (lower house), which is tasked with passing laws etc.

Today, Medvedev issued effusive support for a proposal by “several governors” to move Valentina Matviyenko from the governor’s house in St Petersburg to the Federation Council. And said the council's role should be strengthened.

“I like this idea,” he said during a meeting with governors today. “I think that Valentina Ivanovna Matviyenko is a person with great governing experience, an absolutely successful governor who previously worked in leadership positions in government, a person who really throws herself into work, able to solve problems and, finally, if one of the central places in government is given to a woman, it will help ensure that the government will be more modern and will develop better.”

Matviyenko has ruled St Petersburg since winning an election in 2003. Since then she has been reappointed by Vladimir Putin (while he was president), following the abolition of gubernatorial elections (the city leaders of both Moscow and St Petersburg are called governors, so the Kremlin can appoint them). If you can find me one person in St Petersburg who likes her, I will give you a million dollars [sic]. From its growing traffic problem, to her horrific architectural plans, to the gruesome trend of annual killings by falling icicles – she is a figure loved by no one. Except Vladimir Putin (a St Petersburg native), and that’s all that counts. She is fiercely loyal to Putin, a proud card carrying member of United Russia and it wouldn’t be surprising if after eight years at the helm of Russia’s second city she harbored political ambitions on a national level. So it feels like a promotion, while it might very well not be. As Russian Forbes put it: They found a place for Valentina Matviyenko's honorable retirement.

Oh and in case you were wondering what happened to Mironov, he’s taken a seat in the State Duma. How did he get kicked out? Through a vote in the St Petersburg city legislature. Hmm …