Staunton, July 19 – Moscow’s decision to make deputy prime minsters curators of the federal districts, a step Vladimir Putin hinted at in his Direct Line broadcast and that has now been implemented, changes the relations between Moscow and the regions and between the Russian government and the Kremlin, Aleksey Shaburov says.
The Yekaterinburg political analyst says that the new arrangement means that “each federal district has acquired its own deputy prime minister,” something that Moscow says will better help them promote economic development but that many believe will have other more likely consequences (politsovet.ru/71011-odnih-polpredov-malo-zachem-regionam-naznachili-kuratorov-v-pravitelstve.html).
Shaburov for his part lists three. First, this arrangement will limit the ability of governors to lobby ministries directly. They will have to get the approval of the curators first. That will reduce their power and influence and mean among other things that the heads of federal subjects will now report to deputy prime ministers rather than the prime minister or president.
Second, this new arrangement sets the stage for the demise of the presidential plenipotentiaries or at least eclipses them. They will no longer be the most important Moscow official in these territories, the representative of the president. That will now be the vice premiers who represent the government.
On the one hand, that strengthens the hand of the government relative to the Kremlin in this area. And on the other, it is a move which further underlines Putin’s focus on foreign affairs while allowing Mikhail Mishustin to run domestic policy, although it sets up a potentially competition between vice premiers and plenipotentiaries as long as the latter continue to exist.
And third, Shaburov suggests, this change may not have been intended to do either of these things but rather be the latest example of the bureaucracy acting to show that it is acting and no one on top being willing to rein it in. If so, that means that controlling what the bureaucracy has done will be central to Russian politics in the coming months.
“It is no accident that the coordination of the work of the curator-vice prime ministers will be supervised by a commission for regional development,” the Yekaterinburg analyst says. That commission will be headed by Vice Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin. And in this regard, one should remember that in the past there was a ministry for regional development.
That ministry was then disbanded, but now a commission has been established to do many of the same things, centralizing things in one sense but duplicating and confusing matters in another, two trends that have dominated Russian government decision making for most of the time Putin has been in office.