Viktor Zubkov set to take over as Prime Minister
Actually, under other conditions, he could have become a pensioner, not PM of Russia. He is virtually unknown to the Russian public and I think that Putin still wants to propose as his successor someone that the Russian electorate has some knowledge of. It would be, to my mind, very strange if the President presented someone as his successor who is virtually unknown to the nation.
Already dubbed “the Presidential Surprise” by some media sources, the candidate for the post of Prime Minister, Viktor Zubkov, may seem like an unexpected choice. Announced by State Duma Speaker, Boris Gryzlov, the candidacy seemed to catch Russia's political elite off guard.
“Today, in accordance with the Constitution of the Russian Federation, the President has proposed a candidate for the post of Prime Minister. He is Viktor Zubkov, who is currently serving as the head of the Federal Financial Monitoring Service. He is basically controlling all of Russia's finances. His experience, without a doubt, makes him the right choice for the post of Prime Minister. On Thursday all factions of the Duma will have a chance to meet with the candidate,”Boris Gryzlov told reporters.
As the political forces prepare to form a new government, the career of Mr Zubkov is under the media microscope.
The little-known head of Russia's financial watchdog was born in the Sverdlovsk region of the Urals. He graduated as an economist and ran state farms in the Leningrad region before moving to St. Petersburg where he worked with Vladimir Putin during the latter's time in the mayor's office in the mid 1990s.
Mr Zubkov, who will celebrate his 66th birthday this week, took the post of Deputy Finance Minister in 2001. And after many years in the Tax Ministry and the Financial Monitoring Service, he is thought by many politicians to be just the man for Prime Minister. As controller of the country's finances, Mr Zubkov is believed to be the right man brought in at the right time – a few months ahead of the elections.
An emergency government session has been held in Moscow. During the session, Mr Fradkov discussed his decision with members of the Russian Parliament.
Following the session, members of the Duma – Parliament's lower house – gave their reactions.
Boris Gryzlov, head of the United Russia party, which has a majority in parliament, said his party will support Zubkov’s candidacy.
Sergey Mironov, head of the Federation Council, the Upper Chamber of the Russian Parliament and leader of the Just Russia party, also supported the President’s choice. He said that many members of the cabinet will lose their jobs and the new cabinet will look quite different from the previous one.
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Vice-Speaker of the Russian State Duma and leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, gave his reaction: “He is a man from the president’s team, well-educated and experienced in managing finances, and that is exactly what we need right now because there is a huge cash flow in Russia, but somehow we cannot use it properly, so I think he is the right candidate”.
But while the majority of politicians and analysts agree that Viktor Zubkov's candidacy will be approved, not many think he will enter next year’s presidential race.
“The theory that Putin will completely repeat the scenario of his own succession, which was implemented by Yeltsin in 1999-2000, I find unrealistic. Putin does not repeat himself and, of course, he would not repeat Boris Yeltsin and his method of succession,” said political analyst Vyacheslav Nikonov.
The speculation will undoubtedly continue all the way to the parliamentary elections in December. But with a financier recently appointed as Defence Minister, and the possibility of another heading the government, one thing seems to be clear – President Putin is putting money on his inner team taking Russia into a new era.
Aleksey Pushkov, political analyst, believes that Mr Zubkov has been considered for resignation because of his age for a long time.
“Actually, under other conditions, he could have become a pensioner, not PM of Russia. He is virtually unknown to the Russian public and I think that Putin still wants to propose as his successor someone that the Russian electorate has some knowledge of. It would be, to my mind, very strange if the President presented someone as his successor who is virtually unknown to the nation,” concluded Aleksey Pushkov.
“Russian politics continues as it used to in the past”,Dmitry Babich, a political analyst for the Russian Profile magazine added. “The person who was expected to become something does not become something and the person who is not expected to become something suddenly gets all kinds of positions.”
Russia's President Vladimir Putin has accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov's government. The President said that it is time for the country to think about how to build the power structure so that it better corresponds to the pre-election period and prepares the country for the time after the parliamentary elections and after the presidential elections.
The country today is coming to the Parliamentary Elections which will be followed by the Presidential elections and perhaps all of us should think together how to build the structure of power and government so that they correspond to the pre-election period, and to prepare the country for the time after the Parliamentary Elections this December and Presidential Elections in March 2008. I accept your resignation and I call upon you to perform your duties until the State Duma approves a new candidate for Chairman of the Government
Mr Fradkov tendered his resignation saying that the country is facing political changes and that he wants to give the president full freedom of decision-making including staff decisions.
“Understanding the political situation today in the country, I would like to give you a free hand in making decisions, including changes in personnel. And I think it would be correct on my part to table the initiative to resign from the post of Chairman of the Government, so that you will have no restrictions in making decisions and building the power configuration in connection with upcoming political events. I would like to thank you for the confidence shown in me while working as Chairman of the Government for more than three and a half years, and having your total support. I would like to ask you to accept my resignation,” Mikhail Fradkov said in conversation with the President.
“I fully agree with your valuation and indeed the Government of the Russian Federation under your leadership in the course of the past few years has done a great job and has achieved serious positive results. Economic growth has been at a very good pace, the volume of the economy has increased every year, inflation has gone down and there has been a considerable increase in the real income of our people and we've begun to carry out major social projects. All this is the result of the work of the Russian Government under your leadership. And so I would like to thank you for the work that has been done. Understandably, such a large-scale work could not be without certain setbacks and without errors and mistakes and you are concerned about this. But, as I see it, both you and all your colleagues did everything to carry out their jobs on schedule and rectify those errors and mistakes.
And indeed the country today is coming to the Parliamentary Elections which will be followed by the Presidential elections and perhaps all of us should think together how to build the structure of power and government so that they correspond to the pre-election period, and to prepare the country for the time after the Parliamentary Elections this December and Presidential Elections in March 2008. I accept your resignation and I call upon you to perform your duties until the State Duma approves a new candidate for Chairman of the Government,” Vladimir Putin replied.
The most important thing for Russia now is to maintain continuity while holding first parliamentary and then presidential elections. I do believe that having a stable government will ensure this continuity and stability. Mr Fradkov’s decision fully corresponds to the internal political logic of Russia’s development
Head of International Affairs
Committee of the State Duma
Mikhail Fradkov said that although the President was satisified with all the activities of his cabinet, the resignation was ‘timely and justified’. Mr Fradkov also said that the key members of the government will keep their jobs and that the main policies will remain unchanged. He added that Mr Zubkov has all the necessary qualities and skills to successfully carry out his duties as head of the cabinet. He noted that there was no doubt the Duma would approve his candidacy as soon as possible.
“It's clear the future Cabinet will continue to focus on the economy – that was implicit in the President's decision to dismiss the government. It was part of a long-term plan by the President. I'm taking this calmly, the situation is stable and our further actions will ensure that stability,” Mr Fradkov said.
First Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Ivanov gave his reaction to the recent changes in the Government.
“As in any democratic country government dismissals happen sooner or later, and it’s just chance that it happened today. Everything that could be publicly stated on the matter has already been said. This is actually the fifth time that I’ve become an acting member of the government. There is nothing frightening about that. The government under Mikhail Fradkov, with all its shortcomings, has accomplished a lot,” he stated.
“The most important thing for Russia now is to maintain continuity while holding first parliamentary and then presidential elections. I do believe that having a stable government will ensure this continuity and stability. Mr Fradkov’s decision fully corresponds to the internal political logic of Russia’s development,” Konstantin Kosachyov, Head of International Affairs, commented.
Other comments followed.
“I think this is a wise decision. It will allow the main candidate for President to display his authority. He will have enough time to show his worth,” commented Vladimir Zhirinovsky, vice-speaker of the Russian State Duma, the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party.
“The President has given a good reason. The reason is the election. The second question is whether the government deserved credit. And, really, the President was quite polite and omitted to state the clear and correct fact that this was not the strongest government in the history of the country,” underlined Aleksandr Lebedev, State Duma Deputy.
Aleksandr Konovalov, President of the Institute of Strategic Assessment, said that Mikhail Fradkov’s resignation was both expected and, at the same time, surprising.
“To some extent it was expected. But at the same time it came as a surprise. Of course, everything is defined by the situation at this moment, which is just on the eve of the Parliamentary Election in Russia and very close to the Presidential Election. And Mr Fradkov in his application to resign stated directly that he would like to clear the political field for the President, for political manoeuvres and for choosing proper strategies and making any changes to personnel,” he said.
Stanislav Belkovsky, President of the National Strategy Institute, joined Russia Today to give his views on the dismissal of the Russian government and further developments.
Belkovsky says the dismissal was not completely unexpected. He outlined what he believes were the two possible scenarios. “Scenario number one: the government would be changed in December, after parliamentary elections, so as not to disclose Putin's successor prematurely. And scenario number two: to disclose the successor by the end of September in order to speed up the power transition. Putin has chosen scenario number two. It is not totally unexpected,” he said.
Belkovsky added that “the country has many problems. The structure of Government should be changed dramatically because the functions of running monopolies, which are then delegated to state-controlled corporations, are in fact being run by the state bureaucracy – government itself.”
“The new government will be principally different from the existing one. The successor has to have time to formulate his strategy, more than the three months remaining after the parliamentary elections. There are numerous problems in the Northern Caucasus, in the Far East. So Putin's successor should be prepared professionally and psychologically to resolve such problems. It requires at least six months,” he concluded.
And Sergey Markov, from the Russian Public Chamber Committee on International Co-operation, said that some ministers may resign under the new PM.
“In my opinion, the changes in the Government will lead to the replacement of some of the ministers. It is possible that Mikhail Zurabov, the Minister of Social Development, will step down and his Ministry will be split just like the Ministry of Education and Science. Those who take up the ministerial posts will not come out of the blue they are already in the front line. Ex-ministers will not disappear from the political stage. They will either become chairmen of important committees or will be put in charge of large state corporations,” Mr Markov commented.
Mikhail Fradkov first joined the Russian government a year after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, becoming Deputy Foreign Trade Minister in Russia's first reformist government under Egor Gaidar.
In 1999 President Boris Yeltsin brought him back to the government as Trade Minister, but he lost that job when Vladimir Putin was elected as new Kremlin leader in March 2000.
Soon afterwards he was made head of the tax police. After that Mr Fradkov was sent to Brussels as Russia's representative to the European Union. In 2004, Putin brought him back from Brussels to replace the sacked Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov.
He was an unexpected choice for prime minister when he was appointed in 2004. His premiership coincided with a period of stability and economic growth, but the market gave much of the credit for that to the fiscally prudent policies of Finance Minister Aleksey Kudrin.
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