Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 40

On February 24, President Vladimir Putin submitted a draft law to the State Duma which would rob governors who have either stepped down voluntarily or been removed from office of the right to run again for the post they vacated (Russian agencies, February 24; see also the Monitor, February 26).

The idea for such legislation was broached last month by Aleksandr Veshnyakov, chairman of the Central Election Commission (CEC), just after Kemerovo Oblast Governor Aman Tuleev voluntarily stepped down from his post. Tuleev explained his decision to step down by saying that there were too many election campaigns set for Kemerovo this year, and that he wanted to save budget money by ensuring that some of these elections were held simultaneously. The Kemerovo governor also said that he planned to run in the new gubernatorial election (Polit.ru, January 24). Veshnyakov condemned Tuleev’s actions and declared publicly that officials who step down on the eve of elections should be legally barred from running again for their former post (Russian agencies, January 25). At that time, however, there were no legal obstacles preventing Tuleev from doing so. He therefore simply ignored Veshnyakov. He seemed to be following the example of Konstantin Titov, who stepped down last spring as Samara governor only to be re-elected last summer (see the Monitor, April 12, July 5, 2000).

Neither Titov nor Tuleev are enemies of the Kremlin, however, and thus their actions did not spur federal countermeasures. The situation changed cardinally, however, after the battle between the federal center and Primorsky Krai Governor Yevgeny Nazdratenko ended with the latter’s “voluntary” resignation. Even though Nazdratenko announced that he had no plans to run in the region’s ensuing gubernatorial election, many commentators continued to predict that he and his biggest enemy, former Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherepkov, would be the main contenders for the post. Some predicted that Nazdratenko had a strong chance to win back his seat (Polit.ru, February 12; NTV, NNS.ru, February 14, 19). Such an outcome would be a humiliating defeat for the Kremlin, robbing the federal center of its final shred of authority in the eyes of the regional elites. The federal authorities therefore reacted strongly: Veshnyakov announced that the CEC had drafted a law which would bar governors who have left office from running in pre-term elections for the same post. The CEC head said he hoped that the president would support the law and introduce it into the State Duma for approval (Radio Russia, February 14). Putin has now done just that.

Putin’s introduction of the new law looks like a continuation of his duel with Nazdratenko, but on a field of battle where the president’s team has a better chance for victory–parliament. The new law will collide with the interests of only two former governors, Tuleev and Nazdratenko. It will probably not apply to Tuleev, given that he has already registered as a candidate in Kemerovo’s next gubernatorial election, which takes place on April 22. The State Duma works slowly, and laws are not retroactive. It seems unlikely that there is enough time before the end of April for the Duma and the Federation Council to approve the law and for the president to then sign it (Polit.ru, February 19). It would therefore seem that Nazdratenko is the only real target of the law–that is, if he does choose to participate in the Primorsky Krai elections.

On February 19 the Primorsky Krai Duma selected May 27 as the date for the next gubernatorial election (Russian agencies, February 19). Those deputies ignored the opinion of the federal center, which had recommended that the gubernatorial and regional Duma elections be held simultaneously. Many commentators noted that the earlier the election is held, the better are Nazdratenko’s chances to win it (NTV, Polit.ru, February 19). It is also unlikely that the law which would prevent Nazdratenko from running will be in effect even by May 27. All of this may explain why Putin felt the need to employ another method to dissuade Nazdratenko from running again for governor: He appointed the former Primorsky Krai governor head of the State Fisheries Committee (see the Monitor, February 26).