PRESIDENTS’ STAFF CONSIDERATIONS

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POLITICAL ESTABLISHMENT IS UNCERTAIN WITH REGARD TO ITS OWN FUTURE

Moscow is full of rumors and speculations in connection with Vladimir Putin’s move to the government.


One thing is clear, namely that the government is going to become different. For starters, the government will be performing new functions and wielding new powers soon. Specified by the Constitution, these powers are colossal. Once the presidential administration’s supervision is history along with the unavoidable parallelism of functions, the White House will gain weight in the relations with other state power structures. This is where eventually inevitable conflicts within the power vertical are rooted. The Kremlin with Vladimir Putin in it was immeasurably stronger than any Cabinet under whatever premier. Officials of the presidential administration carried more weight than their counterparts in the government. Things are about to change, at least for the duration of Dmitry Medvedev’s first year as president. It will take Dmitry Medvedev approximately that long to gain experience and decide what instruments he needs. Once the experience is gained and decisions are made, serious staff shuffles will follow immediately…

Sergei Markov, Duma deputy and political scientist, went public yesterday voicing his uneasiness over the future. Markov gauged diarchy in Russia as possible but unlikely and suggested establishment of two centers of power as a solution.

(Other experts in the meantime view the confusion the political establishment has found itself in the grips of as an indication of the state of thorough uncertainty within the corridors of power.)

Markov in the meantime believes that two centers of power are just the ticket: Putin should retain leadership in this arrangement or the latter will deteriorate into diarchy. In other words, abandonment of the idea of an alliance between two equal leaders is the only cure, according to Markov. “As for Medvedev and Putin themselves, I do not think that they will quarrel among themselves,” Markov said. “If they ever do, the quarrel will certainly have been engineered by their apparats.”

Interest in the future staff shuffles is augmented by a sub-intrigue (for want of a better word): who will move to the government with Putin and who will remain with Medvedev? Nature of the staff shuffles in the upper echelons of state power with the president’s and premier’s political weights being compatible will probably become clear at some later date.

Experts maintain that consultations between Medvedev and Putin will be completed (or, rather, that their results will be revealed to general public) in two months, i.e. after the inauguration. Systemic approach to personnel matters is typical of Putin and his political style. It follows that the first information on staff shuffles will be released only when Putin himself is ready i.e. when he has made up his mind on everything. The matter concerns changes in the government, presidential administration, Security Council, and even in the Duma. All political scientists this newspaper approached for comments agree that the new configuration Medvedev and Putin will agree on will be new both from the standpoint of personnel and, no less importantly, structure.

Powers and functions wielded by the government and presidential administration will be redistributed to a certain extent. Experts predict abandonment of the penchant for mono-centrism typical of the system set up by Putin. “We are in for a better balanced presidential power. The Cabinet will recover and rebuild its somewhat lost status of the highest body in the executive branch of the government,” political scientist Dmitry Badovsky (Public House member) said. Relations between the president and premier will be based on the two-keys principle: two decisions and two signatures. Making decisions in regional politics (say, in appointment of governors), the Kremlin will take the opinion of the government into consideration. Something like when the premier nominates candidates for regional leaders and the president accepts them.

All experts Nezavisimaya Gazeta approached for comments expect Igor Sechin, Assistant Director of the Presidential Administration, to step down soon. Most specialists suspect that Sechin will follow Putin into the government, but some assume that he may end up in Rosneft. Vladislav Surkov, another Assistant Director of the Presidential Administration, will probably retain his position even though he actively promoted Medvedev’s rival Sergei Ivanov for president.

As a matter of fact, some experts believe that Surkov may actually be promoted to director of the presidential administration. Others meanwhile think that Sergei Sobyanin will retain directorship or that Presidential Aide Igor Shuvalov will be elevated to replace Sobyanin. Personalities aside, all these assumptions are based on the premise that Medvedev will be putting together his own team from predominantly Putin’s personnel.

As for Putin himself, he is getting accustomed to being the premier. He dwells on economic problems in his speeches and statements more and more frequently. Experts point out that Putin is ready to take up economic issues and wants to do so. Once the premier, Putin will rearrange the government. Strengthening and expanding the inner circle of ministers and deputy premiers, he will solidify his own positions first and foremost.

Experts refuse to venture a guess on all future staff changes but believe that they may more or less confidently predict at least some of them. Badovsky is convinced for example that Ivanov will be asked to resign as a senior deputy premier. He will probably move to the Security Council where the post of the secretary has been vacant for some time already. “Granted that Ivanov and Medvedev are friends, they also are rivals,” Alexander Shatilov of the Political Conjuncture Center’s Department of Analysis said. “Post of the secretary of the Security Council may be less important than that of a senior deputy premier, but it does stand for considerable clout with security structures. I strongly suspect that this post will be offered to Ivanov because he deserves it. He has deserved it by years of loyalty…”

Experts are convinced as well that Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin will retain his post despite the recent efforts to unseat him. Putin regards Kudrin as a competent specialist these days. As for the future, Kudrin’s future that is, it depends to a considerable extent on how he will fit in with Putin’s course for rearrangement of the government. Elvira Nabiullina will remain in the Cabinet as well even though the Economic Development and Commerce Ministry as it is will become history soon. Mikhail Fradkov made it the government’s general staff three years ago. Not a single project or program stood a chance without Herman Gref’s approval. It is another thing that is going to change soon. It is expected that ministries will chart and adopt programs entirely on their own now. Without the Economic Development and Commerce Ministry.

What experts agree with is that even though all decisions will be made by the two leaders at first, Medvedev will eventually surround himself with the men he himself trusts.

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