- The 35-year-old cleaning lady put her name on the ballot as a favor to her boss, the mayor.
- She ended up earning 62% of the vote in her small rural Russian town.
In a sweet story of someone getting their just desserts, a Russian mayor asked the building’s cleaner to sign up for the local election to assure his victory. But then she won. In Povalikhino, a small town in rural Russia, official elections must have at least two candidates to validate the process. So, Nikolai Loktev, the 58-year-old incumbent mayor, asked the city hall’s 35-year-old cleaning lady to join him on the ballot as a formality.
An Election Day Surprise
Loktev’s plan didn’t work out quite as planned; Marina Udgodskaya earned 62% of the vote to Loktev’s 34%. However, some residents would have preferred a third option–no mayor at all. The local shopkeeper told the BBC, “If we could have voted against all we would have done, but we had the option to vote for Marina, so we did.”
Initially, Udgodskaya was going to resign the position, feeling uncertain about her ability to run the town of 242, “I didn’t think people would actually vote for me.” It’d be up to her to fund a new election if she refused to take the new job.
The town’s overwhelming support didn’t end with the election; the former cleaning lady has the townspeople’s commitment to helping her learn the job. The mayor’s assistant, Irina Nechayeva, has faith in the newly elected mayor, “I think she’ll cope. The whole village will help. Though, of course, her education needs a bit of a boost.”
The increased paycheck may have temped Udgodskaya as well; the new position doubles her salary as a cleaning lady. She already has an agenda. She committed to bringing street lights to Povalikhino, a longstanding request from the townspeople.
Elections with Pre-Selected Winners and Losers
Russia and a handful of former Soviet states use democratic elections for selecting leaders only as a matter of ceremony. The establishment pre-selects winners and losers, going to great lengths to prevent viable opponents from even appearing on the ticket. Vladimir Putin’s opponent Aleksei A. Navalny was poisoned just before the Russian election this year.
It was just a matter of personalities in such a small town that caused a historical breakdown of election expectations. The townspeople saw Loktev as too withdrawn. He didn’t talk to the townspeople or show he cared. Meanwhile, people knew Udgodskaya and liked her, even if she didn’t have political experience.
In an interview, Udgodskaya claimed she wouldn’t have run except as a favor for her boss, as she never cared for politics, “I like farming.”