Skip to comments.Clowns Put Horse Up for Election (Russia)
Posted on 09/11/2003 9:46:28 PM PDT by nickcarraway
How about a horse for governor?
Walking down Nevsky Prospekt on Wednesday, you were likely to be stopped by several clowns introducing a horse to you and asking you to support it.
This was, of course, no ordinary horse: According to a large poster next to it, the horse is running for St. Petersburg governor and is supported by the president.
Pedestrians crossing Anichkov Bridge, which has statues of men straining to hold prancing horses on its four corners, were asked whether they would elect a horse if the president so requested and were invited to vote by putting an orange ball into one of two transparent containers.
The container marked "yes" was twice as full as the one marked "no," although potential voters showed little enthusiasm.
"The concentration of police around the clowns was huge," said Alena Bolgarova, PR manager for St. Petersburg Vice Governor Anna Markova, whose informal supporters organized the performance. Markova is running second in the election race.
"Even the clowns themselves were clearly uncomfortable with the continuous document checks. The horse was apparently pretty nervous, too: After the first half an hour, it made a mess."
The performance alluded to ancient Roman history. Roman Emperor Caligula is said to have entered the Senate on his favorite racehorse, Incitatus, and made every senator give a deep bow to honor the animal. The despotic emperor is said to have even considered making the horse a consul.
The performance also alluded to a Sept. 2 meeting between President Vladimir Putin and his envoy in the Northwest Federal District, Valentina Matviyenko, who is the frontrunner for governor.
State-run Channel One and Rossia television gave wide coverage to the meeting, at which the president gave Matviyenko his blessing in the election. Markova has filed suit, accusing Matviyenko of breaking election rules.
Leonid Kesselman, a political analyst with the Institute of Sociology at the Russian Academy of Sciences, said he had mixed feelings about the street performance.
"On one hand, the Roman connection is sublime, smart, resonant and very fitting," he said. "But if you take the same performance on a biological level, making parallels between the animal and the real candidate supported by the president, it's offensive."
Kesselman compared the gubernatorial elections to mud wrestling. "I personally find it quite disgusting when women are fighting in the dirt. And this is what is happening in St. Petersburg."
Sergei Pryanishnikov, a pornographic-movie producer who dropped out of the race this week, said the barracks humor of the horse stunt is a perfect reflection of the actual campaign.
"The whole point of the campaign has switched from comparing the candidates' programs to a stupid division between those who are with the president and their opponents," he said.
If elected governor, Pryanishnikov had promised to turn St. Petersburg into the erotic capital of Europe.
Unlike the meeting between the president and his envoy, the performance on Nevsky Prospect was not televised by a single St. Petersburg television channel.
"There was only one cameraman, from Rossia, but their bosses are only interested in one candidate," Bolgarova said.
Many observers have complained of biased coverage of the election campaign, and political commentator Daniil Kotsubinsky said the performance on Nevsky was a welcome change.
"Candidates who offer an alternative to Matviyenko, whatever they do, barely get any coverage in the mass media," Kotsubinsky said.
"At the same time, the president blatantly violates the law, endorsing one of the candidates in front of TV cameras," he said. "In such a context, I very much welcome the horse vote - as a rare opportunity for the opposition to have their say in public."
Yulia Tanaisova, deputy director for promotion issues at Expert North West magazine, said the performance was a smart PR move.
"I have to say that if I had the chance to vote for that horse, I would do so - not because the president supports it," she said. "The president should be sued for breaking the law.
"I would vote for the horse," she said. "Because it doesn't lie and doesn't use dirty tactics."
Is California off the hook for silliest election?
The Roman Emperor Caligula actually appointed his horse as Senator.