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48% RUSSIANS BELIEVE THAT PUTIN AND MEDVEDEV SHARED THE STATE POWER FIFTY-FIFTY

Dmitry Medvedev never divided spheres of influence with Premier Vladimir Putin in his first year in office.


President’s Press Secretary Natalia Timakova is convinced that the powers wielded by the president and the prime minister are clearly specified by the Constitution and that Dmitry Medvedev’s first year in office showed no parallelism in their performance or willingness on anyone’s part to interfere with the affairs of the other. Outsiders meanwhile wonder.

Levada-Center sociologists discovered this April that 48% respondents were convinced that the state power was shared between both leaders fifty-fifty. Thirty percent thought that Putin was the actual leader. The Russians who assumed that Medvedev’s powers exceeded Putin’s numbered 12% this April (against 22% a year ago).

These last 12 months greatly changed the president’s relations with plenipotentiary representatives and governors. With Putin in the Kremlin, it had been plenipotentiary representatives who nominated governors. Medvedev altered this practice and initiated amendment of the acting legislation. As of June, governors will be nominated by political parties. By and large, political and administrative weight of presidential representatives in federal regions has been dwindling all through Medvedev’s presidency.

When Putin was the president, some plenipotentiary representatives wielded enough clout to engineer appointment of governors. Kamil Iskhakov in the Far East, ex-mayor of Kazan, orchestrated Nikolai Kolesov’s promotion to Amur governor. Mikhail Men owed his governorship in Ivanovo to Georgy Poltavchenko, Presidential Plenipotentiary Representative in the Central Federal Region.

With Medvedev in the Kremlin, some governors were appointed despite plenipotentiary representatives. Anatoly Kvashnin in Siberia bitterly objected to Victor Zimin’s promotion to governor of Khakassia in December 2008, sources say.

Presidential Plenipotentiary Representative Oleg Safonov in the Far East found himself at odds with the Prosecutor General’s Office and several governors at once. Existence and gravity of the conflict was recognized by all involved parties. Medvedev sacked Safonov last week.

Governors are appointed by the president, but Presidential Administration Director Sergei Naryshkin is also involved. Before submitting the list of candidates for governorship to Medvedev, Naryshkin always phones Putin. Aware of this state of affairs, some governors seek support from both leaders. When facing the prospect of early retirement, Primorie Governor Sergei Darkin discussed the matter with both Putin and Medvedev.

Sources in the Russian Business and Entrepreneurship Union say that even businessmen are compelled to take their matters up with both national leaders.

Matter of fact, businessmen are somewhat uncertain on which of the two leaders ought to endorse major deals. MDM Bank CEO Oleg Viugin discussed its merger with Ursa Bank with Putin last December (it was the largest merger in the financial sphere in 2008). Problems of the auto industry are also handled by Putin…

On the other hand, it was with Medvedev that Oleg Deripaska, Victor Vekselberg, Mikhail Prokhorov, Vladimir Potanin, and Alisher Usmanov discussed the idea of blending Norilsk Nickel and Metalloinvest and developing the future structure into a global group this January. It was to Medvedev that Potanin and Deripaska reported the failure to reach an agreement a month later. The Presidential Administration meanwhile interceded on behalf of UC Rusal and helped it with the problem of debts. Presidential Aide Arkady Dvorkovich informed creditors that UC Rusal, a strategic enterprise that it was, could count on government support.

The president no longer meets with key members of the Cabinet every Monday (it is Putin’s prerogative now), but economic issues are tackled by both Medvedev and Putin. “Medvedev is the head of state so that he handles all strategic issues. On the other hand, he certainly listens to Putin and his opinion on some matters,” Putin’s Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said. “As for tactical issues including economic management, it is the premier who wields broad powers.”

According to a senior Kremlin official, anti-crisis actions and measures are usually a prerogative of the government but the Presidential Administration administration does suggest some ideas every now and then. The Kremlin was discussing a reduction of the Central Bank’s refinance rate as an anti-crisis measure in December 2008 when the Finance Ministry and the Central Bank were flatly opposed to the idea. The refinance rate was reduced in April all the same, by 0.5% only.

Appointed in 2007, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov has a carte blanche for pitiless military reforms issued him even before Medvedev’s election the president. According to a Defense Ministry official, it spares Serdyukov the necessity to run his personnel decisions by anyone from the ruling tandem. In any event, when Serdyukov was pondering resignation a couple of months ago, he discussed it with Putin even though all security structures in Russia answer to the president by the Constitution.

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