Moscow could soon have its first Jewish mayor.
Konstantin Natanovich Borovoi, founder of the Russian Commodities and Raw Materials Exchange and reputed to be one of Russia’s wealthiest men, has thrown his hat into the ring for a mayoral election set for Feb 28.
“I’m not Ross Perot,” Borovoi told reporters at a news conference. “I’m not spending my own money on this.”
But Borovoi sounded very much like the Texas billionaire in disavowing personal ambition.
“I don’t want to be mayor,” he said, “but I hate the Communists and I want to create here normal economic structures, normal political structures. That is the goal of my life.”
It is just as well that Borovoi does not have his heart set on the mayor’s office, because the elections may not take place next month after all.
Moscow’s city government, like the Russian federal government, is plagued by a bitter struggle between the executive and legislative branches. The City Council voted to hold the election to test the political strength of Mayor Yuri Luzhkov.
But the city’s public prosecutor ruled against the call for elections, after an appeal by Luzhkov. The matter is presently in the local courts.
If the election takes place, Borovoi will face Luzhkov and two other challengers. One of them is radical-reform economist Larisa Piyasheva, herself not Jewish but a strong supporter of reforms that have affected Jews, such as easing emigration restrictions. The other challenger is a city official.
Luzhkov himself was elected to the post of deputy mayor in June 1991, when Gavril Popov became the first popularly elected mayor in the city’s history. That was the same election in which Boris Yeltsin became Russia’s first popularly elected president.
Popov resigned in May 1992, protesting the council’s obstruction of his reforms. Luzhkov then became mayor to fill out Popov’s term, which expires in 1996.
But Luzhkov lacks Popov’s “clean” reformer image. He has repeatedly been the subject of rumors of bribery and corruption, charges he has brusquely denied.
“Luzhkov is a person of the old generation,” Borovoi said last week. “He will never be a good manager because he will not carry through on privatization.”
JEWISH CANDIDATE A WELL-KNOWN BUSINESSMAN
Borovoi, 44, is one of the country’s most well-known businessmen. Reputedly a multimillionaire, he has started more than 20 enterprises over the past six years, including the commodities exchange.
His patronymic of Natanovich, or “son of Natan,” indicates that his father was Jewish, but be has not been publicly identified with Jewish causes. Privately, however, Borovoi has supported programs to aid the Jewish elderly hit by inflation.
He also showed his Jewish feelings in a highly publicized case here in December 1991, when he provided protection to the wife of a Jewish academician who was kidnapped and later murdered as part of ethnic violence in the Caucasus region of Checheniya.