The government is gaining administrative weight.

Uncertainty over exactly how state power will be changing hands in Russia soon foments all sorts of speculations in the upper echelons. What information is available indicates that decision-makers are pondering establishment of a wholly new structure within the government, one that will perform some functions currently performed by the presidential administration. It will boost political and administrative weight of the future premier at the cost of presidential powers reduction.

The White House is avidly discussing future structure of the executive branch of the government and distribution of powers between the presidential administration and the Cabinet after Dmitry Medvedev’s inauguration on May 7.

Sources in the government anticipate a dramatic increase of the number of deputy premiers. That former Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov had only one deputy premier once (Alexander Zhukov) is conveniently forgotten. According to what information this newspaper has compiled, Vladimir Putin will want more than the current five deputy premiers. Insiders claim that at least three more will appear in the Cabinet soon – to handle agriculture, social issues, and security structures coordination. It is rumored that deputy premiership is to be offered to Premier Victor Zubkov, St.Petersburg Governor Valentina Matvienko, and Deputy Director of the Presidential Administration Victor Ivanov. Senior Deputy Premier Sergei Ivanov will probably ordered back into the Security Council.

Amalgamated four years ago within the framework of a campaign to reduce bureaucratic machinery in size, some ministries of the Cabinet will be divided again. Culture and Mass Communications ministry is to be split into ministries of culture and press. The same lot awaits the Health Care and Social Development Ministry, Information and Communications Ministry, and Education and Science Ministry. In other words, the next government will include almost double the number of ministries Zubkov’s includes nowadays. Some ministers of Zubkov’s Cabinet will vacate their positions. Insiders and experts say that Victor Khristenko currently of the Industry and Energy Ministry, Igor Levitin of the Transport Ministry, and some others may resign.

There is no saying at this point who will be promoted to run the Cabinet machinery. Sources surmise that this position will be probably offered to Igor Sechin. (Sechin became the head of the premier’s secretariat on August 17, 1999. When Putin was elected the president the following year, Sechin became a deputy director of the presidential administration.) Experts maintain that Sechin seems to be the only man Putin always finds a place nearby wherever he himself is working. Sechin’s return to the White House will mean resignation of Sergei Naryshkin who has been running the government machinery so far. Naryshkin is rumored to be the deputy premier in the next Cabinet in charge of CIS affairs.

Arkady Dvorkovich, Chief of the Expert Directorate in the presidential administration and one of Putin’s proteges, is bound to move to the government too. Sources denounce the assumption that Dvorkovich will be given the job of Elvira Nabiullina, currently the Economic Development and Trade Minister. On the other hand, they wonder if Dvorkovich is going to accept a position under Sechin. (It is said that Dvorkovich and Sechin are too different people for that.)

Putin needs Sechin to keep an eye on Medvedev. Insiders claim that powers of the next president will be greatly reduced. Forthcoming appearance of a deputy premier in charge of security structures is an indirect confirmation of this assumption. The Kremlin itself is in charge of the army, secret services, and law enforcement agencies these days. It is exactly this nuance that enabled Anatoly Serdyukov to remain the defense minister when his father-in-law Zubkov became the premier. What with security ministers’ loyalty to Putin which is expected to last at least through the period of Medvedev’s initiation, it is clear that the next premier’s clout with security structures will be considerable indeed.

Unification of personnel divisions of the government and presidential administration is another proof of redistribution of powers and influence under way. Once they are merged, Sechin will have the last say on all staff decisions in the Kremlin. In other words, Medvedev is going to find himself significantly less independent a politician than the Constitution specifies. Formally, however, the Constitution will be honored.