Why post of Governor loses attractiveness?

Why post of Governor loses attractiveness?

The federal center meets difficulties in selection of candidates for Governor's posts.

The Head of the region should be public, have economic knowledge and obey the power vertical - it becomes more difficult to find someone with all these qualities. Vlast researched how modern governors work and why the post earlier desired by many turned into a career grave.

The former Acting Head of the Kaliningrad Region Evgeny Zinichev voluntarily left his post, without even working 100 days there. It was the first precedent in the history of Governor's appointments and elections during the President Vladimir Putin service. Informed source in the regional management declares that former employee of the Federal Security Guard Service “had a hard time working at a public post”. “It was noticeable - Zinichev was weighed down by both routine, and publicity. He tried to cope with the routine, appointing Anton Alikhanov the Head of the Government [now the Acting Governor – Vlast], concerning publicity - he could not get over it”, interlocutor in regional Edinaya Rossiya (United Russia political party) confirms. One of the first steps of the serviceman on his post was suspension of live broadcasts of meetings of the regional Government on the Internet.

Evgeny Zinichev's case demonstrates the inconsistency of the place of governors of the majority of the Russian regions. They should be ambitious public politicians to win elections, strong business executives to cope with economic and infrastructure problems, and at the same time to remain loyal members of the power vertical. At the same time each Head of the region can become a whipping boy in population problems against the background of the growing deficit of regional budgets. Soon head of subjects will have even more obligations: according to information of Vlast, at the forthcoming meeting of the State Council responsibility on investment attraction will be conferred on governors - it will become one of the main criteria for evaluation of their work.

“An expression “a share worse than the governor’s” has a long life, but gradually this share becomes worse and worse”, political scientist Vladimir Slatinov sneers. It is difficult to call the work of the head of the region stable, in many subjects heads are working for one or one and a half terms, then replacement follows. From old residents who underwent governor's elections before their cancellation, only few remained: Aman Tuleyev (Kemerovo Region), Evgeny Savchenko (Belgorod Region), Oleg Korolev (Lipetsk Region), Aleksander Mikhaylov (Kursk Region), Nikolay Merkushkin (Samara Region), Anatoly Artamonov (Kaluga Region). Among heads from the era of the appointments, working for more than one terms, held positions and passed through the returned elections - Rustam Minnikhanov (Tatarstan), Rustem Hamitov (Bashkiria), Aleksander Zhilkin (Astrakhan region), Vasily Golubev (Rostov region), Aleksey Orlov (Kalmykia), Oleg Kovalyov (Ryazan region), Sergey Mitin (Novgorod region) and Valery Shantsev (Nizhny Novgorod Region). In many regions, after the change of a heavyweight governor, new heads had been changed several times. In the Volgograd Region, Anatoly Brovko, Sergey Bozhenov, Andrey Bocharov held the post after communist Nikolay Maksyuta. Aleksander Misharin (Sverdlovsk Region), Mikhail Yurevich (Chelyabinsk Region), Dmitry Dmitriyenko (Murmansk Region), Ilya Mikhalchuk (Arkhangelsk Region), Dmitry Zelenin (Tver Region) and many others did not receive prolongation of powers and did not work till the end of their terms.

There are a lot of Varangian among those, who fulfilled one or less than one term. The interlocutor of Vlast in the State Duma says that in the middle and the end of the aughts “external managers” were appointed to regions consciously: “They did not depend on local clans, but they also could not build their power vertical completely unaided from above: on arrival the team faced resistance of local. The governor should have constantly address the center for protection, the system of dependence was built".

In corpulent years it was rather simple to observe the requirement to heads of the regions: they should not have given reasons for mass social protests (after the many thousands performances in Kaliningrad in 2010 Georgy Boos lost his post), should have given a good result for the ruling party on elections (for example, the Head of the Yaroslavl region Anatoly Lisitsyn in 2007 paid for low percentage of Edinaya Rossiya party members in the Duma campaign, his successor Sergey Vakhrukov was dismissed in 2011), should not have allowed obvious miscalculations in economy. Publicity was not among the requirements. “Before cancellation of elections governors tried to keep media holdings in the regions, the work was of which was optimized for the population. After the introduction of the appointments, they understood that it was enough to be pleasant to one person - the president. After that, the PR campaign was started in the national media”, former official of Presidential Administration Andrey Kolyadin remembers. According to him, after cancellation of elections governors stopped being "a political class": “they do not influence decision making at the federal level”. According to the political scientist and economist-geographer Alexey Titkov, “heads of the regions do not play any role in the federal agenda”. “It is considered that they can speak within the State Council, however this body only approves solutions of the center, its participants have no own initiative”, he notes.

In the regions governors have a wide range of powers and serious influence, which, however, has its borders. They have complete carte blanche to build a team. Often, heads of the regions brought not only officials of their administration, but also speakers of Legislative Assemblies (so did Dmitry Zelenin in the Tver Region and Georgy Boos in the Kaliningrad Region). Heads also influence appointment of heads of Edinaya Rossiya. At last, governors try to bring their people to the posts of heads of large municipalities. The political scientist Vladimir Slatinov reminds that in 2014 the Kremlin gave a serious trump in the hands of heads of subjects: as a result of municipal reform Legislative Assemblies received the right to determine the scheme of forming of local government in the cities and areas. After that, cancellation of elections of mayors happened. “Now governors draw the managed design as it is convenient to them. Relations with parties also autonomous: for some governor the CPRF is quite loyal, and LDPR is oppositional as, for example, in the Kursk Region, and somewhere on the contrary”, Slatinov gives an example.

Autonomy, according to him, comes to an end in the relations with large federal business players, who agree on rules of the game in the center and on budget parameters. “They are deprived any independence in it, the exception may only be donor regions”, the expert argues. A large part of tax revenue goes to the Federal budget and returns to the subject in the form of targeted income from it. “Governors can get friendly company on contracts, do purchases, interact with local medium-sized business in their own favor – that is all scope”, one of regional deputies of the Edinaya Rossiya party states.

This scope was enough, for officials to desire to work at a governor's position in corpulent aughts - now budgets decrease, their deficit grows, subjects get into debts. “Even before, many managers from the state entities and corporations refused to be transferred on the post of the Governor: “My entity works like clock-work, everything is debugged, I understand what I do and how do I bring benefit. Governor’s salary less in a multiple order, so it is necessary to look for some other sources of the income. Who needs that?”. Today, there is not enough money in the regions, heads throw expenses from one article on another, more relevant— it is not theft but misappropriation of funds, a criminal charge. Each Governor risks, feels uncomfortably”, Andrey Kolyadin argues.

He reminds of one more Governor’s duty, which is now more often discussed in connection with criminal cases - financing of political and elective projects. Thus the former Head of the Kirov Region Nikita Belykh claimed that he did not take a bribe – the money should have gone to infrastructure fund for work on the eve of the State Duma elections. While the former Vice-Governor of the Chelyabinsk Region Nikolay Sandakov, who was also accused of corruption, said that he raised money for a campaign of Edinaya Rossiya.

Since 2012 governors had more problems - after the protest performances on Bolotnaya Square and the Sakharov Avenue elections of heads of regions were returned. Distinction from the former scheme was noticeable: candidates should have passed through the municipal filter, collecting signatures of local deputies, vast majority of which in all regions was constituted by Edinaya Rossiya party members. Thanks to this scheme in four years of such campaigns, a candidate of the power lost to an oppositionist only once – in the Irkurtsk Region last year. However, according to Vladimir Slatinov, in spite of the fact that the returned elections of heads of regions in practice became “organized vote on approval of the candidate from the power”, publicity was still required from the heads. “Though the campaigns do not take place in tough competitive struggle, Kremlin still needs skills of public communication from governors. Heads of subjects should communicate with the population also during the interelective period, it is a daily public work", the expert explains.

Slatinov calls the scheme of Governor's work hybrid. “The Head of the region should manage to hold balance, standing in a bow-legged pose: his one leg should stand on any publicity, another — on the power vertical”, he declares. The political scientist calls the involvement of governors in the power vertical complete: “They work within strict hierarchical system of relations, plus they are influenced by public structures, which are in fact built in the power vertical, for example All-Russia People’s Front”. “Problems with selection of new personnel inevitably acquire. Usually, the person either inclined to public policy, or wants to become a part of the power vertical. So far, searches are carried out in the direction of the relatively young and sometimes very young managers who are able to study”, Slatinov gives an example. The heads-old residents working from the 1990th could somehow combine contradictory qualities, which the federal authority demands from governors. “Yury Luzhkov, Eduard Rossel from the Sverdlovsk Region, Sergey Sobyanin during his work in Tyumen, Vladimir Chub (Rostov Region), Aleksander Filippenko (Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous District), Yury Neyelov (Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District). All of them were economists, who passed through a school of the heavy 1990th, and public figures, who held the agenda only by attracting attention to themselves”, Andrey Kolyadin lists.

New heads try to solve their problems in different ways. Most often they make experiments with a management structure in the region. This year separation of posts of governors and heads of the government was abolished in the Sverdlovsk Region and Komi. Now heads of regions are direct cabinet council. In the Kaliningrad and Yaroslavl Regions, positions of individual heads of Government, in contrast, were introduced.

In 61 of 85 Russian regions governors head regional administration by themselves (most often it is referred to as the government). In 24 subjects a separate position for the Head of the Government is provided. The majority of such regions — national republics.

“Historically separate post of the Head of the Government was introduced in the national republics and autonomies within Russia it was an element of inter-elite arrangements between nationalities, clans. In other subjects, there were attempts to introduce posts for heads of the government, but the division was firstly abolished, then introduced again. It remained in the Sverdlovsk Region. During the rule of Dmitry Medvedev, there were hypotheses that introduction of a post of the Head of the Government will be a step to the parliamentary form of government, but in reality it is not what happened, in part of the regions the division was cancelled later”, political scientist Aleksander Kynev explained. He declares that most governors create separate posts for the Head of the Government if they are not “economists or business executives”: “For example, a governor - a pure politician, he wants to relieve himself from the routine and responsibility for social difficulties, unpopular steps. This trend still remains”.

Another common case – the local Head of the Government with governor-Varangian. Thus it happened in the Tula, Samara regions. Until recently this scheme worked also in the Sverdlovsk Region, where the native of the Tyumen Region Evgeny Kuyvashev appointed the Head of the Government Denis Pasler, Sverdlovsk entrepreneur and deputy of the United Russia party. During the rule of Kuyvashev's predecessor, Varangian Aleksander Misharin, the government was directed by the local: Valery Vlasov and Aleksander Gredin. “The Head of the Government from among local elite is necessary to the Governor as the translator, the conductor in the region”, Andrey Kolyadin says.

Aleksey Titkov sees the Soviet roots in the scheme of separation of posts of the Governor and Head of the regional Government. “In the USSR at the plants there were the director who was responsible for external interaction, and the chief engineer dealing with problems inside. Regions are doomed to create and cancel these schemes depending on the current environment”, Titkov declares.

One would think, this convenient scheme of division of labor between a governor and a head of government is fraught with the conflicts. For example, the same Denis Pasler was considered as the possible candidate from the authorities on elections of the Sverdlovsk governor in 2017. In the 1990s the Head of the Arkhangelsk Region Anatoly Efremov and the Head of the Government Nikolay Malakov were in conflict. Malakov was dismissed, after a while he proposed his candidature on Governor's elections, the campaign was tough, but the ex-Head of the Government lost it. Ambassador of the President in Volga Federal District Mikhail Babich, during his work as the Head of the Government in Chechnya, had a conflict with the president of the republic Akhmat Kadyrov. Cases when a group or an influential person, who helped the Governor to be elected, put the Head of the Government are frequent. For example, Babich directed campaign of general Gennady Shpak on a post of the head of the Ryazan Region. Andrey Yarin, close to Mikhail Babich directed Shpak's government (he is now head of department of internal policy of the president).

Actually, the scheme of separation of powers between governor and head of government remains a utopia: the decision concerning head of office is made by head of the region. “Actually, the Head of the Government plays a role of the first Deputy of the Governor”, Aleksander Kynev summarizes.

The situation could have changed, if real appointment of heads of Government was influenced by the Legislative Assemblies, which would select a suitable business executive or economist, but regional parliamentarians, especially those, who are strictly entered in the Governor's vertical do not have such opportunities.

The federal center continues to raise a level of professional requirements to governors, without giving them financial independence and requiring complete submission, while putting emphasis on the latter. Aleksey Titkov believes that the system began to conduct negative selection. “Obedient and loyal are selected, the most suitable candidacies, on the contrary, are eliminated. The intra-elite competition, fight for posts are obviously undesirable. Now governors who achieved success at the federal level — Sergey Sobyanin, Aleksander Khloponin, Yury Trutnev — would fadeat an early stage of the competition. The mechanism of selection does not allow to see suitable people”, - he is sure.

Negative selection just develops the outlined tendency. If at the beginning of the aughts several governors went to growth, leaving their successors in regions (Sergey Sobyanin and Aleksander Khloponin), now transition to heads of the regions obviously does not promise continuation of career. Georgy Boos and Vladimir Gruzdev (the former Head of the Tula Region) wanted to move up through a governorship, but their posts did not allow them to achieve the desirable objectives. Both once promising politicians stopped being such. Lately Aleksander Tkachyov and Mikhail Men passed into the federal Government to ministerial posts. “Now Boris Dubrovsky works in the Chelyabinsk Region [information on his transition to the government  appeared several times, but the rumors never proved to be true – Vlast], he is a great economist, but has no political intuition, the environment eats him", Andrey Kolyadin gives an example.

Not only the first Acting Governor, who voluntarily refused his position after the first months of work, proves the imperfection of system of regional government and personnel selection. Attempts of transfer of heads from one region to another also shows it. In the Samara Region, which is headed by Nikolay Merkushkin, who had led Mordovia for long time, this acceptance failed. The Governor's revelations about the western intervention in the Russian policy and reasoning on dependence of budget financing from the center from votes for Edinaya Rossiya party members became federal scandal, however Merkushkin did not show economic progress. Except the Federal Security Guard Service, Kremlin has not found any personnel reserve: among new heads there are former speakers of Legislative Assemblies, municipals, mediocre federal officials – they already tried all these. It is symptomatic that there ate almost no manager natives of business and just bright, charismatic politicians left among governors. 

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