President Boris Yeltsin has signed a decree upgrading the status and authority of his presidential representatives in Russia’s regions. (Segodnya, July 11) The move represents an effort by the Kremlin to reassert the control over provincial governors that it effectively lost last year, when governors ceased to be appointed by the president and became elected by the inhabitants of their regions. At present, the presidential representatives in the regions have virtually no powers at all. Appointed to act as Yeltsin’s eyes and ears in the regions, they are universally hated as spies and sneaks, and governors have found it easy to squeeze them out of the policy loop.
The details of Yeltsin’s new decree have not yet been published, but it appears that the president is aiming to increase significantly the power of his representatives both by giving them financial clout and by assigning them not to a single krai or oblast, as at present, but to several. (Izvestia, July 3; Segodnya, July 11) It may even turn out (though this is not yet clear) that the representatives will be given responsibility for Russia’s twelve economic regions, which group a number republics, krais and oblasts by geographical proximity. In any case, putting each presidential representative in charge of several provinces instead of just one would raise them above the rough-and-tumble of oblast-level politics and give each the power to play his charges off one against the other. Enhancing the authority of the president’s representatives would also help restore some of Yeltsin’s own lost influence. At present, the only federal institution that still functions effectively throughout the whole of the Russian Federation is believed to be the KGB’s domestic successor, the Federal Security Service (FSB). (Moskovsky komsomolets, July 4)
If Yeltsin’s attempt to enhance the authority of his representatives has a chance of working in the way the president intends, it will be bitterly resisted by regional governors and by the Federation Council on which they sit. In recent weeks, the governors have fought hard against Yeltsin’s attempt to assert his right to sack democratically elected governors. The Federation Council denounced Yeltsin’s moves against the maverick governor of Primorsky krai, Yevgeny Nazdratenko — not because Nazdratenko’s fellow governors feel any affection for him, but because they rightly perceived Yeltsin’s attempt to oust Nazdratenko as a potential blow against themselves. Led by Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov and Yekaterinburg governor Eduard Rossel, the Federation Council also united to condemn Yeltsin’s stop-gap appointment of regional FSB head Viktor Kondratov as his representative in Primorsky Krai with control over the purse-strings. (Izvestia, July 5) The Kremlin’s campaign against Nazdratenko is now seen to have failed, since its net result was to make Moscow responsible for the social and economic problems that Nazdratenko was elected to solve. Yeltsin’s new decree will apparently attempt to assert federal control over the regions in a more systematic manner.
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