Staunton, August 29 – The system of federal districts with presidential plenipotentiaries that Vladimir Putin set up at the beginning of his presidency is living out its last days, having achieved its goal of subordinating restive regions to the Kremlin and now an obstacle to the further expansion of the Presidential Administration, Ivan Preobrazhensky says.
When the FDs were created and presidential plenipotentiaries were named to head them, the Moscow commentator says, the latter were often called “governors general” but “over the last two decades, the political weight [of these officials and the districts they head] has significantly shrunk” (rosbalt.ru/russia/2021/08/27/1918190.html).
After the constitution was amended last year, “the Kremlin took under complete control the entire hierarchy of power in the country, including the government and the governors” and thus reduced the role of the plenipotentiaries. Their role was further cut in July of this year when Prime Minsiter Mikhail Mishustin put deputy prime ministers in charge of each.
Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin was put in charge of coordinating their activity, a development that led some to speak about his elevation. But then, a month later, Mishustin undercut that by making clear that the deputy prime ministers would simply be pushing through central policies in the regions they were overseeing rather than playing any other role.
Just how little the federal districts or their heads matter, Preobrazhensky says, was signaled when the Siberian FD’s head was allowed to remain vacant for several months. If the FDs and their heads mattered, that would have been impossible. So if they are now dispensed with, few will shed any tears.
The major push for eliminating the FDs and the plenipotentiary representatives is coming from the Presidential Administration who sees these institutions are competing not only over policy but also and more importantly for staffing slots. The Presidential Administration wants those positions for itself and so getting rid of these alternatives will help it expand.
What is thus likely to happen, the Moscow commentator says, is that after the elections, the FDs and the presidential plenipotentiaries will be quietly allowed to die and officials attached to them now will be transferred to the control of the PA’s Sergey Kiriyenko or given some honorable retirement.