Staunton, Dec. 7 – The new public power law the Kremlin has pushed through will indeed make it easier for the center to run things, but it is far from clear that “the Kremlin will therefore be better able to control the real situation,” Andrey Pertsev says. In fact, what the law may do is push real politics out of formal structures and thus reduce central control.
Under the terms of this measure, the Meduza journalist and commentator says, the Kremlin really does gain the power to control all regional governments but only at the price of pushing those who have real abilities and real interest in political decisions out of both gubernatorial chairs and regional parliaments (carnegie.ru/commentary/85935).
The politically ambitious won’t strive to be governors as such posts are reduced in importance, and businessmen who had willingly served in regional parliaments to enhance their status will refuse to do so now that those posts are reduced in status to that of federal bureaucrats and subject to the controls such people have.
But the new law won’t eliminate either the ambitious or businessmen, and both will seek to advance their interests not through formal structures but through informal arrangements. To the extent they do, the vaunted power vertical will be less significant as they bypass it to achieve their own goals.
Indeed, it may even happen that some regions won’t follow orders more than formally but will act on the basis of decisions made among their real leaders, and the center may look the other way as it did with Tatarstan’s presidency rather than entering into “risky open conflict with the national republics,” Pertsev says.
There is yet another reason why the new public power law may not work as the Kremlin intends and thus may be largely a dead letter as far as Russian politics is concerned. “Centralization and verticalization contradicts the Kremlin’s course for removing the president from current decisions in order to preserve his ratings.”
“After the adoption of this law, the governors will finally be converted into the direct subordinates of Vladimir Putin, and handing off unpopular steps to them will be ever more difficult,” the commentator says. Consequently, the goals the Kremlin has may be threatened by its latest means of achieving them.