ROAR: Regional “old guard” resigns in smooth hand-over of power

The resignation of the president of Bashkortostan is continuing a soft transfer of power from governors and presidents elected almost twenty years ago.

President Dmitry Medvedev has accepted the resignation of Murtaza Rakhimov, who ruled the Republic of Bashkortostan since 1993. More leaders of Russia’s regions are expected to resign.

Medvedev thanked Rakhimov, 76, for his work as the republic’s president and awarded him
with the first degree of the Order of Merit for the Fatherland. Rustem Khamitov, a former head of the Federal Water Resources Agency who is now a top manager of Rushydro, was appointed the acting president of Bashkortostan.

Rakhimov’s early resignation is considered a milestone in Russian politics as he represents “the old guard” of heavyweight regional leaders. His term of office was to expire in autumn 2011.

A series of resignations of long-serving governors is continuing, said Gleb Pavlovsky, the president of the Foundation for Effective Politics. The management style of these politicians does not fit into the new modernization concept, he told Interfax.

However, this process is not at all a conflict between the federal and regional authorities, the analyst said. He described Rakhimov’s resignation as a “logical event,” and not as “an attack on regional leaders who have served several terms.”

More regional governors may resign in the foreseeable future, securing the smooth and conflict-free handover process for regional power, Pavlovsky believes. The list of governors who have been in power for many years is limited, and they are prepared for it, Pavlovsky said.

In March another “heavyweight” regional leader, Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev, asked not to be considered for a new term, in May Vyacheslav Shtyrov, head of the Republic of Yakutia resigned and on June 30, Medvedev accepted the resignation of the president of the Republic of Karelia, Sergey Katanandov.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, has welcomed Rakhimiov’s resignation. He stressed that all the representatives of “the old guard” should leave their positions.

He described as a positive factor the fact that those who have ruled their regions for about twenty years are now resigning. “The modernization of the country should be conducted with new people,” he noted, speaking at a meeting of the State Duma on July 16.

According to Zhirinovsky, there are four governors left in Russia who received power during the Soviet era or after the breakup of the USSR. They are Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, President of the Republic of Kalmykia Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, Governor of Omsk Region Leonid Polezhaev and Governor of Belgorod Region Evgeny Savchenko.

“It is improper, when one person has had power for a long time,” Zhirinovsky said. “We even limited the president with two terms.”

Analysts had predicted that Rakhimov would not work until his term expired. His resignation was partly a reaction to a series of publications about the bad political situation in the region, Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily said. At the same time, many observers praised stable economic conditions in such regions as Bashkortostan and Tatarstan.

The power transfer will be smooth in Bashkortostan, which is considered a major political victory for the Kremlin, Moskovsky Komsomolets daily said. It also recalled that Rakhimov was almost the only acting regional leader who openly criticized the federal authorities for the centralization of powers.

Rustem Khamitov suits the post of the republic’s president for a number of reasons, the media said. He has both Bashkir and Tatar blood in him, which is important in the republic where the issue of ethnicity is sensitive enough. Tatars constitute a third of the Bashkortostan’s population.

Khamitov has experience in working at the federal and regional levels, said Oksana Goncharenko of the Center for Political Conjuncture. He worked with the region’s elite, but lately his career has developed independently, she noted.

The acting president is not included in the clan system and he is coming to Bashkortostan as a man of the federal center, the analyst said.

State Duma deputy Andrey Nazarov described Khamitov as “the Kremlin’s candidate, optimal for the population of Bashkortostan,” RBC daily said.

However, one of the most important questions now is who will be appointed the prime minister, the paper noted, citing its sources in the ruling United Russia party. “The idea of a return to the Soviet practice is being considered,” the daily said, “when the first person represented the main ethnic group and the second was Russian, a compromise for other ethnic groups.”

The next representative of the heavyweight leaders to resign is Nikolay Fedorov, the president of the Republic of Chuvashia. He asked United Russia not to include his name in the list of candidates for president.

The list, compiled by United Russia, has been submitted to Medvedev. However, Boris Gryzlov, the parliament’s speaker and chairman of the party’s supreme council, said that Fedorov may get a position at the federal level. He was also elected president of the republic in 1993.

Sergey Borisov,
Russian Opinion and Analysis Review, RT