By Justin Lyle
Special to Russia Profile,07/14/2011
Although St. Petersburg governor Valentina Matviyenko eventually agreed to accept President Dmitry Medvedev’s “promotion” to head the Federation Council, she did so after five days of deliberation. And two events this week indicate that she is not going to relinquish her considerable influence in Russia’s second city without a fight.
By Andrew Roth
United Russia is setting up a knockout punch against the unofficial head of A Just Russia, Sergei Mironov. The blow could relieve him of his position as the chairman of the Federation Council, a role which makes him the fourth most influential person in the Russian government. Despite citing official reasons behind the petition to have Mironov recalled from the Federation Council, however, United Russia’s motives are more political than procedural. Having already ceded his official position as party head, Mironov may now lose his most important position in Russian national politics.
By Andrew Roth
Local politics in Russia are always a racket, but in the run-up to the special municipal elections in St. Petersburg, the combination of small-time municipal politics and the big-time ambitions of Governor Valentina Matviyenko to become the speaker of the Federation Council has raised the stakes. Amid cries from the opposition that Matviyenko is making unprecedented use of administrative resources to engineer the vote, time is running out before an election that Matviyenko is almost sure to win, despite being one of the least popular governors in Russia.
Valentina Matviyenko (Валентина Ивановна Матвиенко) was born in Ukraine April 7, 1949. A Russian politician, she is a former governor of Saint Petersburg and was elected head of the Federation Council on September 21, 2011.
Matviyenko graduated from the Leningrad Chemistry and Pharmaceuticals Institute in1972 and the Social Sciences Academy of the Communist Party’s Central Committee in 1985. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, she retrained at the Diplomatic Academy of the USSR Ministry of Foreign Affairs, graduating in 1991.
Having risen through the ranks of the local Komsomol, by 1986 she was vice chair of the Executive Committee of the Leningrad City Council. She then entered national politics, chairing the Soviet Supreme Council Committee for Women, Families, Maternity and Childhood in 1989.
In the early 1990s, she was ambassador of, first the Soviet Union, then the Russian Federation, to the Republic of Malta. After a two year stint as head of the Russian Foreign Ministry's Department for Liaison with the Regions, Parliament, Non-Governmental and Political Organizations, she was named ambassador of the Russian Federation to Greece in 1997.
Matviyenko returned to Russia to become deputy prime minister of the Russian Federation for social policy. In 2003 she was appointed Plenipotentiary Presidential Representative to Northwest Russia and later the following year successfully ran for Governor of St Petersburg, receiving 63% of the vote.
In 2005 following amendments to the law on appointing governors, public elections were scrapped. Under the new system, which sees presidential nominations approved or disapproved by the regional government, Matviyenko was nominated in December 2006, a year before her tenure expired.
In Spring 2007 a number of protests took place demanding Matviyenko’s dismissal. During this period, the Federal Security Service (FSB) also announced details of an assassination plot against Matviyenko, scheduled to take place in June of the same year.
Matviyenko has supported the controversial idea of transferring some state functions from Moscow to Saint Petersburg. This includes the Constitutional Court, transferral of which was completed by 2008.
She has also backed construction of the controversial Okhta Tower. The Gazprom business center, which is set to dominate the skyline by the Smolny Cathedral, has provoked strong criticism from residents and cultural institutions alike.
In late June 2011 Matviyenko's name was linked to the position of speaker of the Federation Council. President Dmitry Medvedev backed her nomination and after a short deliberation she agreed to run for the post. This required winning municipal elections, which she duly did in August 2011, taking 94 percent of the vote. The elections were mired in controversy and Matviyenko kept the name of the district in which she was running secret until the last minute, preventing the opposition from organizing serious alternative candidates. Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who was in St. Petersburg during the vote, was arrested when he attempted to encourage voters not to vote for Matviyenko.
On September 21 2011, Matviyenko was elected head of the Federation Council, with 140 votes in favor and one abstention. She replaces Sergei Mironov, who was ousted in May of the same year.
Matviyenko is married and has one son.