RUSSIA MONITOR

Date: 23 June 2017

Purges in the regions

This summer, elections of governors will be held in sixteen regions of the Russian Federation. But this is only one of many reasons for the unprecedented rise of political temperatures in the regions. The main reason is preparations for the presidential campaign. Before the elections, the Kremlin wants to have loyal and disciplined heads of regions.


© MAXIM SHIPENKOV PAP_EPA

One of the sixteen regions of the Russian Federation, where the elections of the new governor will take place, is Sverdlovsk Oblast. The top favorite is the current head of administration, Yevgeny Kuivashev, in office for five years. Previously, he was an accredited representative of the president in the Ural Federal District. He is also considered to be a member of the clan of Sergey Sobyanin, the current mayor of Moscow. Kuivashev has been officially put forward as a candidate by the ruling party United Russia and there is no doubt that the Kremlin wants him to take up this post. Matters being in such a state, it may be difficult for Yevgeny Roizman, the popular mayor of Yekaterinburg and the most famous politician of the region, to run in the elections. Not only might he complicate the plans of the candidate of the Kremlin, but he even has a chance to win. The authorities failed to reach an agreement with Roizman in order for him to voluntarily decline to run. Some attempts will be made to block his candidacy. Thus, he is going to be supported by the opposition party Yabloko to run for governor. Hence, it has led to a split within the regional structures of the party. Some of the members of the party are against this candidacy. It cannot be excluded that more drastic steps will be undertaken by the authorities, as shown by the events in other regions.
So many detentions of high ranking regional politicians and officials have never happened before. Recently, investigators detained the deputy governors of both Vladimir and Kursk Oblasts. Not that long ago, former governors of the Mari El and the Udmurt Republics were also detained. Currently, there is a lawsuit pending of the former head of the Chelyabinsk Oblast. For a long time, the former Governors of the Kirov Oblast, the Komi Republic and Sakhalin have remained in custody. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. The total number of detained governors, their deputies, regional ministers and their deputies, mayors, etc. has exceeded dozens. One of the reasons behind these purges is a desire to weaken the local centres of political power as Moscow has recently allowed governors to strengthen their legitimacy. The second reason is the desire to apropriate some slogans against corruption from the opposition. Finally, factor number three, which has an impact on the whole country and the state in its different parts, namely a slant towards “siloviki” (“persons of force”) along with a sharpening of policy.
However, such purges may have negative effects on the functioning of the state apparatus at the local level; even if fear is the first reaction, after all, local elites will become aware that there is nobody to defend them in case something happens. It seems to be demoralizing for this level of the Putinocracy, especially if officials see that their colleagues are imprisoned for corrupt fundraising for campaigns and activities of the political party of… Putin himself. For this reason, nobody will want to expose himself to the risk. As a result, political stagnation and minimal decision-making may be expected, from governor to minor officials of an oblast. Besides, the image of detained officials will harm the reputation of the Russian authorities. In fact, they confirm the accusations of the opposition. And here one can possibly find the political motive of Putin; it needs to be taken into account that he will aim to take part in the elections as an independent candidate, “the candidate of the people”, pure and incorruptible, but at the same time the one who punishes his dishonest subordinates.

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