Russia: Complete Guide to 2015 Gubernatorial Elections
Last year, a record number of election campaigns took place after the reintroduction of direct Gubernatorial Elections. It seems that the heads of Federal constituent territories unticipated that the Ukrainian crisis and the ‘war of sanctions’ is about to hurl the ruble, and hastened to get re-elected in still calm atmosphere. Today regions already feel the pressure invoked by the economic crisis and Kremlin does keep an eye on the executive power: Putin personally met with governors, the President’s Administration conducts training and Civil Society Development Foundation (CSDF) monitors its effectiveness: for the eight time the efficiency ranking of governors was published on February 10. On the Single Voting Day it shall be decided who will take the rein of power of at least 15 constituent teritorries. Will Kremlin increase the number in order to reload electoral cycle for 2016? Will the patriotic enthusiasm will help to retain governors’ ratings or the decline of ruble will undermine public trust in regional government? ‘MK’ tried to understand the intricacies of regional politics.
In 2012, Direct Gubernatorial Elections were reintroduced in Russia. However, a year later, in April 2013, the President signed a Law entitling regions to independently decide whether to exercise direct elections of governors or to introduce the procedure for appointing the head of region at the Legislative Assembly of federal constituent territory. What option do regions prefer? From the answer to this question an attentive observer can disclose the balance of political forces in the region and Kremlin preferences. A number of North Caucasian Republics, Crimea and Sevastopol have chosen to appoint the head of region proposed by the President. This year the head of North Ossetia shall be elected, as well as in the oil and gas producing regions: Khanty-Mansi, Yamal-Nenets and Nenets. The Bill introducing appointment of heads of autonomous regions encompassed in constituent teritorries was recently passed by the Parliament in the third reading and was signed by the Federation Council and the President.
Another important issue: when the Gubernatorial Election is held, as scheduled or it will be early ones? Last year, 19 governors were elected in early elections. According to the forecasts of political scientists, this year early elections might be held in more than ten regions. The reasons are different: an attempt to get ahead of the crisis and take the office of regional governors ahead of social discontent commences, reload electoral cycle before the federal election and at the same time to prevent the candidates to the State Duma from further gubernatorial campaigns, to impede the opposition’s preparation and, therefore, become an actual competitor. The governors themselves request early elections in order to avoid possible dismissals due to budget shortage; according to the latest news from foreign currency and oil exchanges, it is just around the corner…
‘MK’ has collected information on scheduled and early elections and made a list of incumbent and potential governors.
Mari El Republic: interim head – Leonid Markelov. His fate is in question. Previously media reported that Markelov ’was left behind Surkov’, and it is not an advantage. On the other hand, nobody change a horse at the crossing: the politician has been holding the office since 2001 and on the eve of election he was appointed as acting governor. He should manage to slip.
Republic of Tatarstan: Rustam Minnikhanov is the President. He is likely to be re-elected: according to Civil Society Fund he holds an honorable 4th place among the governors.
Chuvash Republic: Mikhail Ignatiev is the President. The nomination of alternative candidates is ongoing: the media reported that the reason for that – continues problems in the country, as well as the conflict with the Agriculture Minister Nikolai Fyodorov, who previously was the head of Chuvashia and recommended Ignatiev to the post of governor.
Bryansk region — early elections. In September last year, Vladimir Putin dismissed the acting head of Bryansk Nicholas Denin and appointed the State Duma MP Alexander Bogomazov as acting governor, who will be probably elected to the office of governor in September elections. By the way, Denin was one of the first five governors who were re-elected in 2012, though this implicated a terrible scandal: shortly before the election, court … annuled his candidacy, what almost caused a collapse of power vertical in the region. Then nothing happened, but taking into account the resignation, such scandals do not arise out of nowhere and it does not mean it does not affect the image.
Kaliningrad Region: Governor Nikolai Tsukanov is considered as a weak leader for the strategically important region. New candidates might be nominated. However, according to the latest ranking of governors based on their effectiveness he greatly improved his position and he is no more an outsider, what might implicate a shift in Kremlin’s attitude.
Kaluga region: late last year the governor Anatoly Artamonov announced that he would run for the election, due to complicated economic situation. Artamonov gained the first place in the ranking of governors’ effectiveness, according to the Civil Society Fund; therefore there is no doubt who is the next governor.
Kemerovo region: the incumbent governor Aman Tuleyev, who has governed the region since 1997, is appreciated by Kremlin, but this year he becomes 71 years old and the ripe old age causes health problems. The question is whether he could still govern the region; Kremlin decides the political weight of Tuleyev. According to the latest ranking provided by the Civil Society Fund, the rankings of unsinkable Tuleyev have dropped; the choice is made in favor of his replacement.
Penza Region: the governor Vasily Bochkarev has been holding the office since 1998, such a long term of office may not play into his hands.
Rostov region: on January 22, the governor Vasily Golubev officially confirmed that he would run for re-election, adding that he would stand for election only if he was supported by the President. In October 2014, Golubev already met with Putin, so most likely, his re-election is already decided.
Tambov region: the governor Oleg Betin – longtime politician, in power since 1999 that might invoke votes against him, as well as in favour of him.
Jewish Autonomous Region: the powers of Governor Alexander Vinnikov expire at the end of February, therefore everything will be decided in advance and without any surprises: if Kremlin wants to see Vinnikov as the head of region, he will be appointed as the acting governor, though the loss of eight positions in the governors ranking is a bad sign.
Members of legislative assemblies
Republic of North Ossetia – Alania: the powers of Governor Taymuraz Mamsurov expire in the summer of 2015. Under the effectiveness ranking he is an outsider, the situation in the region is as well not the best. Entire last year everyone was expecting the resignation of Mamsurov, but a successor did not appear. At a meeting with Putin, on January 30, they did not discuss the election. Possibly Kremlin prefers spontanious scenario.
The situation in the oil and gas producing regions is the following:
Khanty-Mansiysk autonomous region the fate of Governor Natalia Komarova is ambiguous: on the one hand, she obtains high anti-rating; on the other hand, she attracts the entire social negativity, thereby strengthening the position of federal government.
Yamal-Nenets autonomous region: Moscow refers to Dmitry Kobylkin as a strong governor.
Nenets autonomous region: in February last year, the governor Igor Fedotov resigned, and he was succeeded by acting Governor Igor Koshkin appointed by the President. This suggests that most likely he will hold the office of governor.
Feasible early elections
A number of governors expect to catch up with re-election by 2016. According to experts, Alexander Tkachev in Krasnodar krai and Eugene Kuyvasheva in Sverdlovsk region have such an opportunity. Moreover, Sergey Eroschenko from Irkutsk region has the same ambitions, as well as Sergey Morozov – Ulyanovsk region, Vladimir Gruzdev – Tula region, Vladimir Ilyukhin – Kamchatka region, Alexander Drozdenko – Leningrad region, Valery Radaev – Saratov region, Viktor Basargin – Perm Krai, Sergey Yastrebov – Yaroslavl region. However the last two candidates have little chancesto succeed: Basargin cannot find a common language with the local staff of United Russia, moreover last spring Putin has rejected his proposal for early elections; Yastrebov held second from the bottom place in the governors effectiveness ranking. Moreover hardly someone forgot the electoral scandal and the detention of ex-mayor of Yaroslavl Eugene Urlashov: for the sake of ‘UR’ monopoly, the story had a happy ending, but the costs of image were quite high…
What predetermines whether governors have a chance to run for early elections? How will the gubernatorial election campaing will look like, will the crisis affect the election results? The experts shared their opinion on this topic with ‘MK’.
Mikhail VINOGRADOV, chairman of Fund ‘Petersburg Politics’:
– A lot will depend on those governors who will run for re-election. A lot depends on the position of federal government: whether it prevents salient opposition candidates from running for election or the same tactics are applied as in the 2013 Election for Moscow Mayor, when the focus was on strong competitors. In 2014, in some regions opponents were allowed to run for election and in other they were denied registration. Whether Moscow decides to purge of election campaigns in 2016–2017 or a spontanious decision is made – both options are feasible. The question is when in March-April, when the social situation becomes clearer or the federal center is ready for numerous election campaigns, in comparison with the last year. Some concerns would lead reconsideration of the situation by the federal government. Different conclusions can be made: to postpone the election or cancel it, as it has been in several regions, to count on the foremost governors. I think there is no certain scheme; the federal government will follow up the situation.
Boris MAKARENKO, chairman of Center of Political Technologies:
– The crisis will not have an impact on the gubernatorial elections, as we hold now, if it has, it will be not very significant. Last year the gubernatorial candidates were winning on average with over 80% of the vote, now it will be more complicated to obtain at least 60%. The rating of ‘United Russia’ may fall in those regions where the election to the Legislative Assembly is held. The fall might be perceived as a trend, though most likely it hardly changes the current situation. In few regions the early elections seem feasible as governors have little time before some election deadlines. Those who outlasts until next year will have to run for election simultaneously with the Duma campaign – governors do not want that. Such a decision is made following a particular scheme: if governor supposed to hold the office for one more term, he was given an opportunity to be re-elected in early election. Those who had to be replaced had been already replaced. More than 20 governors were replaced, while the Law on Gubernatorial elections was pulled from one to another Chamber of Federal Assembly in spring 2012. This year we have not witnessed, as in the past, resignations six months before the polling day, when the obviously leading candidate is appointed to the post of acting governor. Currently only the incumbent governor can hold the ofice of acting governor, it means almost all other candidates ‘for repulse’ have been already replaced. I do not believe in these highly visible scenarios, when governors themselves appoint the opponents. Deliberately controversial personalities cannot run for election.
Dmitry ORESHKIN, a political scientist:
– The crisis affects the election as it escalates the trade union movement whose interests match with the ones of workers. The number of reports on strikes is increasing. The governors will have to cope with them; it is their area of responsibility. The governors of those regions where the election is held will have to be flexible. If people are angry, they might vote against. It may well be in some regions. For example, in Kaliningrad region. The higher standard of living is and the more people are europeanized, the harder they accept the deteriorating quality of life. The Kaliningrad region is the only region of Russia, where no governor has ever been re-elected. Almost certainly the Republics will not face such problems, though some autonomous constituent territories might have. For example, the population residing in Jewish region or oil and gas producing regions is a little bit different; there people are a little less dependent on the authorities. Whereas in Tatarstan and Dagestan it is vice versa, there the actual vote does not count, as the results are fraudulent anyways. The desire of governors to be re-elected is understandable: it makes sense to retake the office sooner than later, as in such case it is a little less likely that you are kicked out by voters. In the regions, where early elections were held last year, it went well, the economic situation was still balanced, the slogan ‘Crimea ours’ implicated solidarity among people. In 2015, ‘Crimea is ours’ is not so much inspiring anymore and economic problems have aggravated. However 2016 will be even worse…
The Source: Moskovsky Komsomolets