Kiriyenko discussed presidential election campaign–2018 with political technologists

Kiriyenko discussed presidential election campaign–2018 with political technologists
Vladimir Putin and Sergei Kiriyenko

Sergei Kiriyenko, the First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office, has discussed the upcoming presidential elections with political technologists. According to RBC Information Systems, preservation of the stability of the current political system had also been discussed at this meeting.

Sergei Kiriyenko, the new overseer of the Kremlin domestic policy, continues a series of meetings with the expert community. On the evening of Tuesday, November 1, 2016, he had a conversation with political technologists in the Presidential Executive Office, – three sources close to the Kremlin told RBC Information Systems. 

According to the sources of RBC Information Systems, the following persons had attended the meeting: Konstantin Kalachev, the Head of the Political Expert Group; political technologists Andrei Kolyadin and Oleg Matveichev; Dmitry Orlov, the General Director of the Agency for Political and Economic Communications; Vartan Sarkisov, the General Director of IMA-Consulting PR Agency, and Aleksey Chesnakov, the Director of the Center for Current Policy.

In addition to Kiriyenko, the Presidential Executive Office was represented by Andrei Yarin, the Head of the Presidential Domestic Policy Directorate, and two his deputies – Timur Prokopenko, responsible for liaison with political parties and youth, and Sergei Novikov supervising liaison with media. The meeting was held behind closed doors; the attendees had been asked not to comment it in press, – four participants told RBC Information Systems. According to them, the main topic was the upcoming presidential election. 

“The meeting was of an informal nature, a conversation at tea. The following aspects had been discussed: agenda of the upcoming presidential election campaign, technologies that can be used, and a broader topic – the political future of the system,” – an RBC source told. The experts had been asked to provide their opinions how the incumbent authorities can “efficiently win the presidential elections” and “preserve the stability of the current political system” in general. 

Another participant of the meeting told that Kiriyenko had mostly abstained from speaking – only listened and made notes. Because the topic of the meeting was pretty broad – “presidential elections” – there was some lack of consistency. “Somebody spoke of the elections in the technological aspect, somebody – in terms of forecasting,” – the RBC source said.

“The possible picture of the campaign had been discussed; what should it be built upon; what public groups to rely upon. Discussed trends determining this election,” – another attendee told. The RBC sources declined to provide more detailed comments.

“The Kremlin has set a task to conduct the upcoming elections with a high turnout and ensure that the candidate representing the authorities – it is expected to be Vladimir Putin again – gets high results,” – an RBC source close to the Presidential Executive Office explained.

“But not a result like, for instance, Karimov (a former President of Uzbekistan, died September 2, 2016 – RBC) had,” – the source clarifies.

The problem is, – he continues – who would provide competition to the main candidate? Leaders of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and the Liberal-Democratic Party of the Russian Federation – Gennady Zyuganov and Vladimir Zhirinovsky respectively – are at the advanced age: Zyuganov is 72, while Zhirinovsky is 70; so it is unclear whether they would be able to wage full-scale campaigns. Sergei Mironov, the leader of Spavedlivaya Rossia (the Just Russia) Party, “is a result of 2%, similarly with Yavlinsky: it is unclear whom to put forward for the elections and whether to put forward anybody at all,” – the RBC source admits. He also states – and this is confirmed by a federal functionary – that Kiriyenko has a task to “build up relationship with the regions in a softer manner, without suppressing the governors: the Kremlin is concerned, in particular, that separatism might liven up under the conditions on an economic crisis”.

The source in the administration told RBC that Kiriyenko holds a series of meetings with the expert community, and the Tuesday meeting is “not the last one”. “Kiriyenko asks experts to speak out of the middle-term agenda, most important matters, risks, and challenges,” – the RBC source said.

On October 28, 2016, the overseer of the domestic policy had a meeting with sociologists and political analysts, – Kommersant reported. The following persons have attended: Igor Bunin, the Founding Director of the Center for Political Technologies; Dmitry Badovsky, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Institute for Socio-Economic and Political Studies; Konstantin Kostin, the Chairman of the Board & CEO of the Civil Society Development Foundation; Mikhail Vinogradov, the President of the Petersburg Policy Fund; Igor Zadorin, the Director of ZIRCON Research Group; and Tatyana Maleeva, the Director of the Institute of Social Analysis and Forecast of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration. Another meeting with sociologists is expected to be held on Wednesday, November 2, 2016, – two sources close to the Kremlin told RBC Information Systems.

The RBC sources note that the meetings conducted by Kiriyenko involve both experts who used to work closely with Vyacheslav Volodin, the former First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office, and those who had never liaised with the Presidential Domestic Policy Directorate. The first group includes inter alia Dmitry Badovsky and Konstantin Kostin heading funds established after the appointment of Volodin to the Kremlin, while the second group includes Aleksey Chesnakov – who is close to Vladislav Surkov, an Aide to the President, – and Andrei Kolyadin, an expert who used to work with Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation. Prior to his Kremlin appointment, Kiriyenko used to be its Chief Executive Officer.

“Apparently, Kiriyenko is ready to work with everybody, but now he performs an audition,” – one of the political technologists who attended the Tuesday meeting says.

“A pool of experts is about to be formed. And now a kind of ‘beauty contest’ is being held among them,” – another participant of the Tuesday meeting adds.

“An inspection of resources is ongoing. Kiriyenko is selecting people and looking who would work [for the Presidential Executive Office] and who will not,” – political expert Nikolai Mironov thinks. According to him, “a wide range of experts is being formed; they are not divided into us and ‘them’”. “I think, this would result in an extensive dialogue”. 

At the same time, – Mironov continues, – Kiriyenko needs to get information on how the divisions subordinate to him work, especially in the context of the upcoming elections. “Currently, the Presidential Administration is unable to formulate a consistent complex of ideas for the presidential campaign. A vision of the future is required; answers to questions that concern our people are required; speakers are required”. 

The state is lacking strategic and political planning – but such a planning is impossible because the goals of the state are unknown to experts. Perhaps, the government would now listen better to the expert society, – Mironov supposed.

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