CHUBAIS: A COMMON NOUN

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Post-2008 options for Anatoly Chubais

Anxiety at the tip of the bureaucracy’s iceberg is already becoming public knowledge. When Putin replaced Yeltsin, Alexander Voloshin served as the relay baton. When Putin is replaced, this role may be played by Anatoly Chubais.


Russia is moving into an era of political stability and continuity.

While Vladimir Putin maintains a lingering pause, remaining the supreme arbiter of everyone’s fate and keeping quiet about the identity of the person he will recommend to voters as the best presidential candidate, anxiety at the tip of the bureaucracy’s iceberg is already becoming public knowledge. When Putin replaced Yeltsin, Alexander Voloshin served as the relay baton. When Putin is replaced, this role may be played by Anatoly Chubais.

Voloshin, Kremlin chief-of-staff from 1999 to 2003, departed when conditional continuity with the Yeltsin era gave way to an indisputably new and different policy course. Note that Voloshin resigned on the day of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s arrest.

At this stage, of course, it’s impossible to predict who will become a relay baton of this kind in 2008 – but there are a few candidates for the role.

For instance, Anatoly Chubais is known to have met with Putin to discuss how the electrical energy market will be regulated once RAO Unified Energy Systems is gone. Chubais proposed concentrating these functions in a special state agency. Chubais later said (to journalists, not to Putin) that he plans to retire. Yet Chubais is the very person who could be a contender for the relay baton role. After all, he was the first person from St. Petersburg to rise to high office in Moscow.

Then again, it was Chubais’s fault that Putin’s transfer to Moscow hung by a thread at one point: after St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak lost the election, Putin was promised a job in the presidential administration – but Chubais, the Kremlin’s chief administrator at the time, cut that job. As the story goes, Putin received this news when he and Alexei Kudrin were driving to the airport – and Kudrin made some calls right there in the car, managing to find Putin a job with Pavel Borodin.

All the same, Chubais is certainly a significant figure – as a politician and an administrator, and a token that Russia hasn’t entirely replaced commonly-accepted democratic values with sovereign values.

But there are some doubts as to whether Chubais will remain the regulator of the electricity market, in a new capacity. Industry and Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko, defending his own positions, has said that a single body for electricity regulation is unnecessary; in confirmation of this, he has established three new energy departments at the Industry and Energy Ministry, including an electricity department. But even Khristenko admits that the government’s structure may change substantially after 2008. And then it will become clear who (other than The President of 2008) will personify policy continuity.

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