Alexey Navalny’s film sidelines Dmitry Medvedev during elections

Alexey Navalny’s film sidelines Dmitry Medvedev during elections
It was expected that Dmitry Medvedev (on the right) would support the candidates for governors from the current regime, but now it is Vladimir Putin that has to do it Photo: Eduard Korniyenko / REUTERS

President Putin is agitating for regional governors he appointed.

United Russia leader Dmitry Medvedev, contrary to the expectations of the party members, did not join the regional election campaign and does not go to the regions where governors will be elected in September, Vedomosti learned. Preparations for the election of the regional candidates are attended by President Vladimir Putin.

Formally, the campaign started in June, but Putin toured the country in the spring: since April 18, he has visited 4 of the 16 regions, according to the Kremlin’s website, and every time he met with the leaders of the regions, except for those seven regions where elections will not be held.

Prior to the election, Putin will travel all the 16 regions, claim two people close to the Kremlin. "A number of trips to the regions are planned," said presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov without informing about the schedule.

Medvedev did not go to any region where gubernatorial elections will take place, according to the government website, and from six regions where parliaments are elected, he visited only North Ossetia. On June 20, he was expected at the forum of United Russia in Yaroslavl (elective region), but Medvedev did not go. Because of the tight schedule, explained the party.

However, Medvedev regularly accepts acting governors in Gorki: since March 31 he has met six of them.

According to political scientist Mikhail Vinogradov, for residents of regions and acting governors, visits by the top leaders are more important than meetings in Moscow: "A visit to a region requires more time for a big boss, more involvement and more decisions; it is believed that any visit should give a result." A meeting in Moscow is being prepared in the working mode, Vinogradov continues, and the connection between the meeting and the result is not so obvious.

The arrival of a leader in the region, of course, is an event of a much higher level than a meeting with him in Moscow, agrees political scientist Yevgeny Minchenko.

A year ago, before the elections to the State Duma, Medvedev visited 36 regions, met with 19 governors, and Putin paid 15 visits, 12 of them were without meetings with the governors.

In May this year, Izvestia announced Medvedev's election tour to the regions, including those where governors will be elected. This was confirmed by the Secretary of the General Council of United Russia, Sergey Neverov, and the sources of the publication close to Medvedev. "The schedule of the party chairman is related to the work of the government and can change for various reasons. On July 24, there will be a party forum in Krasnodar," Neverov told Vedomosti on Wednesday (they elect a legislative assembly). When asked whether the plans for Medvedev's pre-election trips to the regions where the governors are to be elected changed, the source in the government apparatus answered: "No, they remain the same. Novgorod next week, another series of trips. Plus meetings with governors in Moscow." Neverov also mentions the meetings in Moscow and says that in August Medvedev will visit the elective regions.

Support of the acting governors is traditionally the responsibility of the Presidential Administration, not the party or its chairman, Vedomosti's source in United Russia explains. But in the spring it had been planned that both Putin and Medvedev would go to the "gubernatorial" regions, says a person close to the Kremlin. The question of Putin’s travels to the regions was decided in the Kremlin, and Medvedev's participation in the campaign was not discussed, another source close to the Presidential Administration says. However, there was no special decision to prevent Medvedev from going anywhere.

Medvedev's low activity is explained by his poor ratings: his reputation has been damaged by the spring scandals related to the investigation of Alexey Navalny [He's Not Your Dimon], another source of Vedomosti close to the Kremlin says. After the investigation and subsequent protests, Medvedev cannot share the rating with the acting governors and, on the contrary, he is now toxic for them, another person close to the Administration agrees.

The scandals associated with Navalny’s investigation are among the factors that affected the Prime Minister's ratings and the reduction in his pre-election activity, but there is a bigger reason, Minchenko believes: Putin has a presidential election ahead, so his trips are a part of his own election campaign.

It is no secret that the regions have always liked Putin more, Vinogradov agrees, and it was Putin, and not Medvedev, who was on pre-election posters when it was allowed. That is, from a lobbyist point of view, Medvedev is needed, but from the image-building point of view, his visits are not associated with colossal expectations. Especially this year, when there is some obvious ambiguity around the image of the Prime Minister "No doubt, the highly rated Putin coming to the region would add some points to the acting governors, this can serve as a certain guarantee that the authorities are supportive, that he is indeed a protégé of the president. Some other considerations might be related to Medvedev, his lower rating might be the issue”, political scientist Andrei Kolyadin explained. But if so, this is a mistake, the expert believes: "Medvedev is the chairman of the government, and his arrival can be very useful for a region both at the project level and in the sense that Medvedev is now very undervalued as the Head of Government."

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