Staunton, Sept. 28 – A proposal by Senator Andrey Klishas who often serves as a mouthpiece for what the Kremlin wants has attracted a great deal of attention because it annuls term limits on the heads of federal subjects, an arrangement that will mean that some of them will likely remain in place for a long time and build their own “sultanates.”
But the measure contains another provision that has attracted much less attention even though it appears likely to bring to an end a campaign Vladimir Putin has been waging since the start of his presidency. It requires all heads of federal subjects to be called “heads” and nothing else, not governors and certainly not presidents (business-gazeta.ru/article/523689).
That will represent another nail in the coffin of stillborn Russian federalism because it will highlight the appointed nature of these officials and reinforce the notion that they represent the president of the Russian Federation in their regions rather than representing the people of their regions to Moscow.
That is likely to have serious consequences in the future, especially if those in office are able to remain there for a long time. They will become little dictators modelled on the dictator in the Kremlin and thereby create a problem the powers that be in Moscow can mitigate but not in every case solve.
But most immediately, Klishas’ proposal – and given his track record, its adoption by the federal assembly means that the president of Tatarstan will be stripped of that title, something Putin and his team have long wanted on the basis of the specious argument that the country can have only one president.
Tatarstan has had a president since 1991, and it has resisted Moscow’s repeated efforts to eliminate that title, viewing it as a sign of the special status the republic had when it refused to sign the federative treaty and instead negotiated a power-sharing arrangement with the central government.
Now, Kazan appears to have lost and with it the last vestige of the federalism proclaimed in the name of the country but ignored by its rulers. Some in Tatarstan have suggested that Kazan leaders made a deal with Moscow to give up the title of presidency in order to retain control of the petroleum industry in the republic.
But a close analysis of the situation regarding that industry shows that Moscow has taken control of that as well. Tatarstan and with it Russian federalism are in the process of suffering a major defeat, one from which they are unlikely to recover until Putin leaves office (idelreal.org/a/31480700.html).
For background on this fight over the title of president of Tatarstan and appreciations of its implications for Kazan and Russian federalism as such, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/02/fight-over-tatarstan-presidency-heating.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/06/tatarstans-special-status-in-russian.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/06/in-september-flouting-moscow-tatars.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/03/saving-office-of-republic-president.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/01/whatever-moscow-does-with-its-basic-law.html.