Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 168

Primakov told the cabinet yesterday that he intends to get tough with regional governors who pursue policies that are out of line with their statutory powers. Governors who violate the constitution will be suspended regardless of whether or not they were elected, the prime minister declared. No exceptions will be made. This is a threat once heard quite regularly from President Yeltsin who, for the first few years of Russia’s independence, had the power to appoint and remove regional governors. Over the past two years, however, all of Russia’s governors have been democratically elected. The Kremlin made a couple of feeble attempts to claim that the president retained the right to fire governors who stepped out of line, but it was not a right that the president ever dared to put to the test. Even in the early days, when he did have the right, his efforts to exercise it often ran into such strong regional resistance that he was forced to back down. Yeltsin would be on very shaky constitutional ground if he tried to fire an elected governor now, even though Russia’s self-assertive regions have taken some increasingly questionable actions in recent years. The turmoil of recent weeks has forced many of them to adopt extraordinary measures–such as halting the transfer of tax payments to the center and banning the export of locally-produced produce–in an effort to protect their populations from hardship. Primakov will be on extremely insecure ground if he tries to carry out his threat (RTR, September 14).