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Russia Report: January 3, 2003

3 January 2003, Volume 3, Number 1
A review of the Kremlin's role in the gubernatorial or presidential elections in the regions over the past two years suggests that members of the presidential administration have learned from their mistakes in previous elections of regional heads. The presidential administration has mostly given up on trying to install its own people in the regions and is instead reaching an accommodation with the forces that are already in power. In 2000, only seven candidates backed by the Kremlin in 44 regional executive elections won (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 3 January 2001). But in 2001, there were seven victories in 14 races, and in 2002, 10 victories in 14 elections (see table below). In addition, there were only six clear losses by the Kremlin, and in the remaining races it remained neutral.

Of course, determining with any certainty which candidate the Kremlin supports is always fraught with difficulty, not least because candidates of all political affiliations, including Communists, invariably claim a close, personal relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. A second complicating factor is that the Kremlin is not monolithic. It is divided into various factions or clans (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 5 December 2001). Sometimes one Kremlin clan will support one candidate, and another will support another. For example, in the 2002 gubernatorial election in Krasnoyarsk Krai, the so-called Family appeared to be supporting krai legislature speaker Aleksandr Uss, while the St. Petersburg clan supported Taimyr Governor Aleksandr Khloponin. When Uss's forces within the krai election commission tried to snatch victory from Khloponin, Putin, who is often the arbiter in battles between clans, stepped in to declare Khloponin the victor.

But these kinds of conflicts only happen in races that are considered fairly important. In the 2002 presidential race in Tuva, the St. Petersburg "siloviki" supported incumbent President Sherig-ool Oorzhak, while his opponents did not manage to attract any significant support from Moscow. (For ease of presentation, in the table below, the Kremlin position was coded in favor of a certain candidate even if only one faction of the Kremlin was supporting the candidate or if support was divided.)

Support from Moscow can also vary in intensity. Lipetsk incumbent Governor Oleg Korolev had only tepid backing in comparison with the efforts expended by Moscow for Murat Zyazikov in Ingushetia or Gennadii Apanasenko in Primore. The timing of support also varies. It is not uncommon for Moscow to declare its support for a candidate at the last minute. In the Komi Republic and Nenets Autonomous Okrug, the two incumbents won an endorsement from the Unity party only after it was clear that the opposition didn't really have a chance. Komi incumbent Yurii Spiridonov won Unity's endorsement in early December for an election that was held on 16 December. There is also evidence to suggest that the Kremlin hedges its bets by backing one candidate publicly while helping another behind the scenes. For example, Spiridonov had Unity's endorsement, but his chief rival, Viktor Torlopov, was invited to celebrate Constitution Day on 12 December in Moscow and to participate in an earlier presidential delegation to Brussels.

Despite the difficulties in determining the level and nature of support from Moscow for regional candidates, it is still possible to assert that the Kremlin-based political actors have had gradually more success in promoting their own candidate in regional elections results over the past two years than they did during Putin's first year in office. There are any number of reasons for this improved track record, not the least of which is that the number of elections of regional executives slowed down considerably. But equally important has been a change in strategy and tactics.

First and foremost, members of the presidential administration apparently came to appreciate the limits of the spin doctors and of their own ability to project the Kremlin's influence beyond Moscow's Ring Road. In 2000, Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko dropped out of the St. Petersburg gubernatorial race, in part because she recognized that she had no chance of winning despite considerable expenditure of time and energy by the Kremlin (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 12 April 2000). In the next two years, while the Kremlin did not always support a candidate that was a household name in a particular region, there were fewer attempts to launch an outsider. While it is true that the Unity party was cobbled together just a few months before the 1999 State Duma elections and went on to win the second-largest number of seats in the lower chamber, that kind of success may be more difficult to duplicate at the regional level. Certainly, regional races can be more expensive than national-level ones. Aleksandr Urmanov, president of Volnoe obshchestvo sotsialnyikh tekhnologov, told RFE/RL that the general rule of thumb of $1 per voter during Russia campaigns increases to $2 or $3 per voter in a case where the challenger is trying to unseat an incumbent governor.

A second related reason for the presidential administration's improved performance was that it decided to support more incumbents. In 2000, of the seven winning Kremlin-supported candidates, only two were incumbents. In 2001 and 2002, 10 of the 16 winning Kremlin candidates were incumbents. The Moscow-based apparat had apparently chosen to value loyalty over like-mindedness. In Buryatia and Orel Oblast, the presidential administration supported incumbents who had originally been elected with the support of the Communist Party. But not just any Communist was acceptable. In Penza Oblast, the administration appeared to hold its collective nose and actively support the incumbent, scandal-plagued Governor Vasilii Bochkarev, mainly because the alternative to him appeared even worse. Bochkarev faced strong opposition from Vladimir Ilyukhin, a member of the Communist faction in the Duma and head of the Movement to Support the Army.

A third lesson that the Kremlin appeared to have applied in the 2001-02 races is that it is easier to engineer a victory for the candidate they support by eliminating the strongest competition long before election day. This technique was applied in Sakha and Ingushetia. In Sakha, incumbent President Mikhail Nikolaev finally agreed to withdraw his candidacy after a long campaign of pressure from the center, after both Moscow and Yakutsk agreed on his replacement. In Ingushetia, former republican Interior Minister Khamzat Gutseriev was a clear favorite to win, but was barred from the ballot on the eve of the first round of voting on the grounds that he declined to take a leave of absence from his government post for the duration of the election campaign within three days of registering as a candidate (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Volume 5, Number 14, 26 April 2002).

With all of the Kremlin's successes over the past two years, there have been a few failures. The 2001 Primorskii Krai gubernatorial election, in which deputy presidential envoy Gennadii Apanasenko wound up third in the first round despite a no-holds-barred, no-expense-too-great effort on his behalf, was perhaps the biggest fiasco (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 20 June 2001). But politics in the Russian Far East in general, and Primorskii Krai in particular, are unusually volatile; and losses elsewhere, in Altai Republic, for instance, occurred more quietly and with less central media attention.

In 2003, there will be not only 15 new gubernatorial/presidential races, but also a new contest for control of the State Duma is scheduled for 14 December. The attention of the presidential administration will therefore be divided, and it is not unreasonable to predict that the current trend of supporting whoever has the best chances of winning once their loyalty is ensured will continue. Putin's predecessor Boris Yeltsin once told regional leaders to take as much sovereignty as they can swallow in a bid to ensure their support for him. The policy of the Putin administration appears to be similar in that its message to regional leaders to "take as many votes, as many terms in office as they can swallow," provided that they don't conflict with the Kremlin's fundamental aims. (Julie A. Corwin)

2001-02 Gubernatorial Elections

Region(date)___________Winner_________Kremlin_______# of

Kalmykia(10/20/02)___Kirsan Ilyumzhinov_____O_________3rd

Krasnoyarsk(9/8/02)__Aleksandr Khloponin_____F________1st

Buryatia(6/23/02)_____Leonid Potapov _______F_________3rd

Smolensk(5/19/02)_____Viktor Maslov_________F_________1st

Karelia(4/28/02)______Sergei Katanandov_____N_________2nd

Ingushetia(04/28/02)___Murat Zyazikov _______F_________1st

Penza(4/14/02)______Vasilii Bochkarev________F_________2nd

Lipetsk(4/14/02)_____Oleg Korolev__________F_________2nd

Tuva(3/17/02)______Sherig-ool Oorzhak______F_________3rd

N. Ossetia(1/27/02)__Aleksandr Dzasokhov____F_________2nd

Balkaria(1/13/02)____Valerii Kokov __________F_________3rd

Adygei(1/13/02)____Khazrat Sovmen________N__________1st

Sakha(1/13/02)_____ Vyacheslav Shtyrov_____F__________1st

Altai Republic(1/6/02)__Mikhail Lapshin______O__________1st

Chavash(12/16/01)__Nikolai Fedorov_________N_________3rd

Komi(12/16/01)_____Vladimir Torlopov______O__________1st

Orel(10/28/01)______Yegor Stroev__________F__________3rd

Rostov(9/23/01)_____Vladimir Chub_________F__________3rd

Irkutsk(19/8/01)_____Boris Govorin__________F_________2nd

Nizhnii (29/7/01)____Gennadii Khodyrev______O_________1st

Primore(6/17/01)______Sergei Darkin________F*_________1st

Tula(4/22/01)_______Vasilii Starodubtsev______N________2nd

Kemerovo(4/22/01)_____Aman Tuleev_______N_________3rd

Evenk(4/8/01)______Boris Zolotarev_________F_________1st

Tatarstan(3/25/01)___Mintimer Shaimiev ______F________3rd

Amur(25/3/01)____Leonid Korotkov_________F*________1st

Tyumen(1/14/01)____Sergei Sobyanin________O________1st

Nenets(1/14/01)____Vladimir Butov __________F________2nd

F= Favored
O= Opposed
N= Neutral
*Had Kremlin support only during second round of election

Sources: RFE/RL Russian Service's program, "Vybory," "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," "RFE/RL Newsline," Interfax-Northwest, Russian Regional Report, "Nezavisimaya gazeta," "Izvestiya," "Novye izvestiya," "Kommersant-Daily," "Kommersant-Vlast," "Vremya MN."

Although the majority of the heads of Russia's 89 federation subjects are serving their second or third terms, over the past three years there has been an influx of new blood. Some 26 governors or presidents were elected from the beginning of 2000 to the end of 2002 for their first terms. The composition of the ranks of newly elected governors over the past three years bears a close resemblance to the ranks of the newly elected senators in the Federation Council: a combination of national and regional-level business leaders, military and intelligence-service officers, and regional-level politicians (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 14 January 2002). The only class missing from their ranks of the governors but present among the senators are the Moscow-based members of the federal bureaucratic apparatus.

As is the case with the upper legislative chamber, the actual number of former businessmen-turned-politicians is relatively small. Since 2000, only eight businessmen in more than 70 elections have managed to become newly elected governors. Interestingly, all but one of these men came from the extractive industries. Of course, fishing -- as in Primorskii Krai Governor Darkin's case -- isn't typically considered an extractive industry, but fish, like oil, gas, and metals, are a valuable, tradable commodity that is extracted -- in this case not from the ground but from the sea. Of course, electing a former executive is not only way that the extractive industries are making their presence felt during election time -- they also contribute heavily to campaigns. YUKOS, LUKoil, Russian Aluminum, Interros, Kristall, and Mezhprombank have all played prominent roles in a number of elections of regional executives.

Not surprisingly, the largest group among the new governors are politicians who had already achieved some level of prominence at the regional and/or national level before their election. Some five new governors were former members of the State Duma. However, this suggests less that the lower chamber is a good launching pad for gubernatorial office, and more that candidates who can manage to be elected to the State Duma already have the requisite resources and political visibility at the regional level to mount a credible campaign. Only two mayors managed to make their way into top posts in the regions, although more than that number vied for that spot. This is likely because the amount of administrative resources that mayors can muster for their race is dwarfed by those of at the disposal of an incumbent governor.

Although much has been written about the flow of military and intelligence-service officers to political office, the generals have not had a large number of successes -- only six of them have been elected in the past three years. In many races, regional-level Federal Security Service (FSB) officials proposed as candidates have failed to win -- consider the race in the Altai Republic. Zyazikov in Ingushetia and Kulakov in Voronezh did manage to best their competitors, but in Zyazikov's case, it was only after his chief competition was eliminated. In Moscow Oblast, Boris Gromov had already achieved a national political profile as a State Duma deputy, and Vladimir Yegorov, as Baltic Fleet commander, was well-known in Kaliningrad. In neither case did their political image have to be invented from scratch. (Julie A. Corwin)

First-Term Governors/Presidents Elected During 2000-02

The Oligarchs

Aleksandr Khloponin (Krasnoyarsk) __former head of Norilsk Nickel
Khazrat Sovmen (Adygei) __________former head of Polyus Gold Mining
Vyacheslav Shtyrov (Sakha) _______former head of ALROSA diamond company
Sergei Darkin (Primore)___________former head of Roliz fishing company
Boris Zolatarev (Evenk)___________former YUKOS executive
Roman Abramovich (Chukotka)_____former Sibneft head
Vladimir Loginov (Koryak)__________former head of Koryakgeodobycha
Leonid Markelov (Marii-El)_________former Rosgosstrakh general director

The Generals

Murat Zyazikov (Ingushetia)___________former FSB major general
Viktor Maslov (Smolensk)______________former FSB general (head of oblast directorate)
Boris Gromov (Moscow Oblast)________former army general
Vladimir Yegorov (Kaliningrad) ________former Baltic Fleet commander and admiral
Vladimir Shamanov (Ulyanovsk)________former army general
Vladimir Kulakov (Voronezh)___________former FSB general (head of oblast FSB directorate)

Regional Pols

Mikhail Lapshin (Altai Rep.)___________former head of Agrarian Party, State Duma deputy
Leonid Korotkov (Amur)_____________former State Duma deputy
Aleksandr Mikhailov (Kursk)___________former State Duma deputy
Vladimir Tikhonov (Ivanovo)___________former State Duma deputy
Aleksandr Tkachev (Krasnodar)________former State Duma deputy
Gennadii Khodyrev (Nizhnii Novgorod)___former head of oblast Communist Party
Mikhail Mashkovtsev (Kamchatka)_____former head of oblast Communist Party
Vladimir Torlopov (Komi)____________former head of regional legislature
Sergei Sobyanin (Tyumen)___________former head of regional legislature
Viktor Tolokonskii (Novosibirsk)_______former mayor
Yurii Trutnev (Perm)________________former mayor
Anatolii Artamonov (Kaluga)__________former deputy governor
Gennadii Savelev (Komi-Permyak)_____former head of oblast Audit Chamber

Source: "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," "RFE/RL Newsline"

7 January: Orthodox Christmas is celebrated

8 January: French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin will visit Russia

9-12 January: Japanese Prime Minister Jinuchiro Koizumi will visit Russia

14 January: Syrian Vice President Abdul Halim Khaddam will visit Moscow

15 January: Justice Minister Yurii Chaika expected to report to the Duma on proposals for criminal punishment that do not involve serving time in prison

16 January: Armenian President Robert Kocharian will visit Moscow

26 January: Gubernatorial elections will take place in Taimyr Autonomous Okrug

Late January: International Monetary Fund mission scheduled to visit Moscow to evaluate the development of Russia's economy

1 February: New Labor Code will come into effect

2 February: Gubernatorial elections will be held in Magadan Oblast to replace Valentin Tsvetkov, who was assassinated in Moscow in October

10 February: President Putin will visit Paris

16 February: Elections will be held in the Republic of Mordovia to elect the head of the republic (not called a president under republican law)

February: Labor Ministry expected to submit to the government a list of jobs to which young men seeking to perform alternative service (as opposed to military service) could be assigned

February: NATO-Russia Council will hold conference in Rome

4-5 February: An all-Russia conference on "Information Security in Russia in a Global Information Society" will be held in the government building in Moscow

27-28 February: The Union of the People of Chechnya movement will meet in Moscow, State Duma Deputy Aslanbek Aslakhanov announced on 18 December.