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21 Jul, 2009 09:56

ROAR: Younger governors for Russian regions

ROAR: Younger governors for Russian regions

Some Russian governors may be dismissed in the near future and replaced by politicians of a new generation, the Russian media reports.

The Russian president has assessed the work of governors according to certain criteria. The most important are how a governor copes with economic problems in his region. Soon, new criterion will be added – the results of work with the youth.

Dmitry Medvedev had warned governors about this, speaking at the meeting of the State Council at the end of last week.

At the same meeting, Medvedev said that there were “two charming women” sitting in the hall – Duma deputy and former gymnast Svetlana Khorkina and the “Nashi” youth movement activist Marina Zademidkova. “Maybe I should appoint you governors?” Medvedev asked.

The media and analysts have taken this as a sign of possible change in the Kremlin’s policy in appointing governors. Medvedev is already forming his own personnel reserve, and local governments are trying to choose the best candidates for positions in Russian regions.

The president, speaking at the meeting of the State Council, said that people from the personnel reserve should be appointed for positions without waiting until they reach “the pension age.”

Medvedev also urged to reduce the age of people who may run for positions in municipal organs to 18 years.

Analysts are arguing that the words about the possible appointment of 30-year-old Khorkina were not only a joke, but also a signal of a real change in the Kremlin’s policy towards governors.

In January, Medvedev appointed 34-year-old Nikita Belykh, ex-leader of the Union of Right Forces opposition party, as governor of Kirov Region, which many observers labeled as “an experiment”.

Commenting on the chances of former Olympic champion Khorkina and one of the leaders of the Nashi movement Zademidkova, lenta.ru website wrote that “Russians would hardly be glad to fall into the hands of inexperienced amateur politicians.”

Khorkina herself told Komsomolskaya Pravda daily that she did not expect the president to speak about her appointment. “He simply wanted to urge governors to create a personnel reserve,” she explained.

“The young people should take part in life of a city, region, the country,” Khorkina said. “The president said that our young people are energetic, well-educated and nice,” she added.

“I was, of course, pleased,” Khorkina said, adding that she is studying state management and wants to complete her studies and gain more experience.

As for her possible governor’s career, Khorkina told Komsomolskaya Pravda that “her perspectives in politics are wide.”

The discussion about Khorkina has added rumors about the impeding dismissals of some governors. Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes that by the beginning of “the political season in autumn” the Ministry of Regional Development will “select four regions” where unemployment and wage arrears indicators are worst.

Medvedev said at the meeting with his envoys in federal districts in June that he would dismiss governors who do not know how to cope with the economic crisis and fight unemployment.

The main criteria determined by the president for assessing the effectiveness of governors’ work are the unemployment rate and the situation with wage arrears, the media reported.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, citing its source close to the government, wrote that the Ministry of Regional Development would find the regions according to these two parameters. After the monitoring, the heads of these regions may be dismissed for failure of their anti-crisis policy.

However, some regions send improper statistics to the center so that their indicators look well, the daily wrote. Head of the Center of Social Politics of the Institute of Economy Evgeny Gontmakher told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that it was wrong to assess the work of governors according to the rate of unemployment and problems with paying wages.

The main criteria should be different, such as how governors assist in developing small businesses and how they spend federal funds sent to regions on education and health care, Gontmakher stressed.

Russian media, however, doubt that even if the Kremlin wants to fire some governors, it will take only economic indicators as the main criteria. The two North Caucasus republics – Ingushetia and Chechnya – have the highest unemployment rates, lenta.ru wrote, adding that the federal leadership will not change the leaders of these republics.

It seems that the Kremlin will fire those who it already wants to dismiss without taking into account the crisis, lenta.ru wrote. “The social problems do not play the most important part here and are only a media cover,” the website stressed.

Newspapers named governors of regions where economic indicators do not look bad at all who may be dismissed – those in the Moscow Region, Bashkortostan, Chelyabinsk Region. Also, by the end of this year governors of Sverdlovsk, Volgograd, Astrakhan and Volgograd regions will see their terms expired.

Influential Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov is considered by analysts as one of those who may be “replaced”. However, the survey conducted by the Levada Center at the beginning of July show that Muscovites do not want Luzhkov, who has ruled Moscow since 1992, to be dismissed.

Some 56% of those polled said that they would like Luzhkov to continue his work as mayor of the Russian capital, Vremya Novostey wrote. Almost 28% would support “a new face”. In case Luzhkov had to resign, some 55% of respondents would support someone from his team.

Only 25% of those polled said they would support a candidate for mayor who is not associated with the present leadership of the Moscow government.

The majority of the respondents – some 40% – assess Luzhkov’s work as mayor as good, while 11% disagree with this statement. However, Luzhkov had better results eight years ago, when some 65% said he was doing his job well.

Governors used to be elected by voters until 2005. Now they are appointed by the president and approved by regional parliaments, Kommersant wrote. Since July 1, a party that has the majority in the regional parliament proposes candidates for governor to the head of state. The new head of a Russian region on average appears every 37 days, the paper said.

Sergey Borisov, RT