Posts Tagged ‘Dmitry Medvedev’
Dmitry Medvedev’s Government got a new ministry last week. The former Federal Agency for Construction and Housing and Utilities was elevated to the Ministry of Construction and Housing and Utilities by President Vladimir Putin.
Utilities and housing have been a problem in Russia throughout Putin’s rule, and something that people feel strongly about since it effects their daily lives and routines. A rate freeze on domestic utilities has been proposed for next year due to concerns about inflation [http://www.themoscowtimes.com/business/article/sechin-backs-tariff-freeze-and-boasts-40-increase-in-capitalization/486573.html]. By elevating construction, housing and utilities to a ministerial position, Putin seems to be indicating that he understands that this subject is important. This was emphasized during his first meeting with the new Minister, Mikhail Men [http://www.kremlin.ru/news/19529].
So Putin has just placed the problem of construction, housing, utilities directly in Prime Minister Medvedev’s lap. So when the newly formed ministry fails to enact real reform (and it will fail), the blame will fall on Medvedev and his government.
Newly appointed Minister Mikhail Men’s career is filled with holes, but his main claim to fame seems to be his father, the famous Soviet priest Alexander Men, who was assassinated in 1990 [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Men]. Mikhail Men was a deputy mayor in Moscow, and then Governor of the Ivanovno region (I am still trying to track down dates on those). In addition to his political activity, Men [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Men_Project] is also a professional musician who released a hard-rock album in 2004. Like Dmitry Medvedev, he is also a fan of Deep Purple. So the Putin team’s bench is a little longer than we thought, but if all they’re looking for is someone to play seat warmer, they could pick any fan of Deep Purple on the streets of Moscow or any city in Russia.
Vladimir Putin’s fishing expedition in Tyva lit up the Russian blogosphere over the weekend. There were lots of bromance jokes about Putin and Medvedev, and debates about the size of the fish Putin caught (conclusion: much smaller than the claimed 21kg).
But there was also an interesting post by Andrei Malgin on his LJ blog with the conspiracy theory that the fishing trip did not take place at all. And that the photos released were actually from a previous trip to Tyva in 2007. He notes that the Kremlin never noted Putin’s visit to Tyva on the dates he was allegedly there. Furthermore, the Kremlin press pool was not informed of the trip, nor were they present. Finally, the cutter Shoigu and Putin are in has an MChS (Emergencies Ministry) tag on it. This is important because Shoigu was the long-time Minister of the Emergencies Ministry until last year.
The evidence does not look good, but… here is the thing: we know Peskov lies. It is an open secret in Moscow. Someone once joked, “When Peskov lies, you know he is lying, and he knows that you know he is lying.” Frankly, I don’t think he can help himself. But there is a difference between lying in an interview about how much Putin’s pike weighed (and who really cares anyway?), and posting photos that are 6 years old and trying to pass them off as being only a week old. Why would you lie about something like that? What does it get you?
One commenter joked: “Maybe Putin has already died, and we don’t know it.”
Putin’s Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov denied on Sunday that the photos were from the 2007 trip.
Even Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s envoy to NATO apologized for the poor timing of the announcement. While Rogozin’s Twitter comment may have been a joke, Dmitry Medvedev’s announcement yesterday was not. Looking nervously at the camera, the President of Russia stated that he was instructing the military to ramp up, and prepare for a missile defense shield in Europe. Speaking slowly and clearly, Medvedev also threatened to place Iskanders in Kaliningrad.
This was the second time in as many days that Medvedev had come out with a big defense announcement. On Monday, at a meeting in Vladikavkaz, the President had claimed that the 2008 war in Georgia had been carried out in an attempt to prevent Georgian ascension to NATO. While the threats and posturing are nothing new, the timing did seem a bit suspicious. The elections for the State Duma are in 10 days, and the Russian President is leading the party lists for United Russia, the majority party.
For the leading party, United Russia, the numbers do not look promising. In the last few weeks there have been several leaks about how badly United Russia is doing in the polls. Levada Center, the leading polling organization in Russia, revealed the results of its most recent poll. Levada takes this poll on a monthly basis, and always asks the same question: “If the election for the Russian State Duma was held next Sunday, would you vote in them, and which party would you vote for?”
Levada’s most recent results revealed that United Russia’s numbers are falling, with just 51% of their respondents answering that they would vote for United Russia. In the same poll, the Communists would get 20% of the vote. Sergei Mironov’s party would get only 7%, and LDPR (Zhirinovsky’s party) would receive 14%.
Compare this to the other polling organizations in Russia, VTsIOM, and FOM. VTsIOM’s most recent poll only gives United Russia 40%, and FOM gives United Russia 39%. Both organizations give the Communists 13%.
To give you an idea of how bad this is, United Russia currently holds 64.3% of the seats in the State Duma. The authorities are patently worried. In early November the President’s office leaked their own internal poll numbers. These numbers were closer to VTsIOM’s numbers. The leak appeared to be deliberate. A portrayal of weakness from people who do not normally like to appear weak.
So the numbers are bad, and different regions have sought to make up those numbers using “administrative resources”. This has, so far, included pressuring the clergy to urge their congregants to vote for United Russia, publishing posters with the same background as the Election Commission’s posters, and hanging up posters in public schools.
Stories have also leaked that governors’ jobs are on the line, if they fail to produce a certain result. In Novgorod, recent poll numbers placed United Russia at 40%, but fail to take into account regions like Chechnya where Ramzan Kadyrov has promised to deliver “110% of the vote”. While most people have treated Kadyrov’s oath as a joke, in the 2007 election, Chechnya did deliver over 90% of the vote to United Russia.
Utilizing so-called “administrative resources”, and with help from Governors anxious to keep their jobs, United Russia could still potentially receive 60% of the seats in the next parliamentary session. While this is not a Constitutional majority, it would enable the ruling party, and Vladimir Putin to claim a mandate. A necessity if they intend to follow through on their “modernization” platform. And, perhaps more importantly, a necessity for Putin to shore up support for the Presidential elections scheduled in March.
VTsIOM conucted a poll recently on the members of the Government, and I was kind of surprised by the results.
First of all, Sergei Shoigu has the highest approval rating of anyone in the government (people were not asked about Putin). I have mixed feelings about Shoigu. He has held the post of Emergency Situations Minister since Boris Yeltsin came to power. On the one hand, I feel like he must be doing something right, and his approval rating has always been pretty high. But then yesterday’s incident makes me pause to think. His solution to the Bulgaria tragedy is to put black boxes in all boats. What? That’s his response? Quite frankly, the man has never been good in an “emergency” (Beslan, Dubrovka, etc.), and I’m still not sure where he is getting such high numbers. Unless people are just saying that they like him because they know who he is (he has been in the Government since 1991, after all). That’s the only thing I can come up with anyway. Also, presumably, the poll was conducted before the Bulgaria tragedy.
Here are some more numbers:
- Sergei Lavrov — 47% approval rating. Okay, I’ll buy that. He’s one of the most public figures of the Government since he is the head diplomat.
- Sergei Ivanov — 32% approve of the job he’s doing (or have heard of him, anyway).
And the lows are:
- Andrei Fursenko — 50% disapprove of the job he is doing. Hardly suprising since he’s the face of education “reform”, and most teachers are upset about it.
- Tatiana Golikova — 41% disapprove of the job she is doing. What is she doing, anyway? I don’t even know.
- Alexei Kudrin — 34% disapprove of the job he is doing. Well, he’s not exactly populist, is he? And I doubt he’s really out to win any popularity contests. But then none of these people are, are they? Their job doesn’t depend on what the general populace think of them. It only depends on what Putin and Medvedev think of them, and their work.
Some other numbers:
- 75% of people don’t know who Igor Sechin is;
- 72% don’t know who Vyacheslav Volodin is; and
- 71% have never heard of Igor Shuvalov.
I was a little shocked when I saw those numbers, but I bet if you asked Americans the same questions about their Government, they would say the same thing.
There is probably not a good way to say this beyond the absolute, blunt truth: Putin is bored. He hates being PM, and I am not sure that anyone could, or should, blame him for it. Putin has essentially been Mr Russia for the last 3 years and some odd months. Even Miss America is only Miss America for one year, and there is a reason for it. That reason is, of course, that she’d go stark, staring mad if she had to do it for longer.
This WSJ article showed up in my Google Reader this morning (several days late), and since I am following the so-called elections pretty closely, I thought it would be an appropriate lead in to some things I’ve been thinking about.
Here is what the article claims:
Several members of Moscow’s elite business and economic circles have suggested that Mr. Putin may run for president and, when he’s inaugurated, select longtime Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin as the country’s next prime minister.
I can see why this alternative would be attractive to people, particularly investors (as the article says later). I personally am a huge fan of Alexei Leonidovich.
But here is why this is wrong: first of all, the qualities that make Kudrin a good excellent MinFin are not necessarily the qualities that are needed for PM: “…he is seen as a fiscally conservative, clearheaded technocrat with an almost single-minded focused on reining in budget spending.”
If Kudrin were PM under Medvedev, it would be more believable (you need someone conservative to kind of hold Medvedev back, I think). But as a balance to Putin, which is this author’s premise, Kudrin would not be a good choice.
Also, lest we forget, Igor Sechin is the counter-balance to Kudrin, and putting Kudrin over Sechin would not really mesh with the way VVP “leads”.
So that’s where I am going with this.
P.S. I really am going to write the piece about the Presidency, I swear!
Yuri Chaika‘s term as Prosecutor General is up in 18 days. In the next three weeks, the decision must be reached as to whether or not Chaika will remain at his post for another 5 year term.
The Russian Constitution of 1993 states in Articles 102h and 129 that the Prosecutor General is appointed by the President for a 5 year term subject to the approval of the upper house of Parliament, the Federation Council.
Usually this would not be an issue. Chaika would go before the Federation Council, possibly answer a few easy questions, and the Federation Council would vote to approve him for another term.