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Putin moves his former ministers to presidential staff

May 23, 2012, 15:48 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

Publication of the list of Russian presidential staff members that followed the formation of a new Cabinet of Ministers prompted experts to speculate about the possibility of double presidential control of the government’s operation. Most of the new appointees to posts in the staff of the head of state were ministers in the Putin-led Cabinet, who have now vacated seats in the government to their deputies.

Experts have been discussing how these two structures will go about the business of power sharing. Most are certain that the former ministers will retain influence on their successors. Naturally, problems may emerge in cooperation between the presidential staff and the Cabinet.

Almost all of the ministers not invited into the new government have moved to the Kremlin. Most of them joined the group of presidential advisers. The president reaffirmed the powers of the chief of the presidential staff Sergei Ivanov and his first deputy Vyacheslav Volodin. Putin had declared that Ivanov would stay in office long before yesterday’s appointments. Ivanov and Volodin were transferred to the presidential staff after the State Duma elections last December.

Putin left in place Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev. Also, he appointed former Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev as Patrushev’s deputy. The Russian mass media have long labeled Nurgaliyev as the most unpopular interior minister in Russia’s recent history.

Several more government ministers, strongly criticized in society, have been transferred to the presidential staff. Health and Social Development Minister Tatyana Golikova is one. In the capacity of presidential aide she will be supervising the work of her former deputies in the ministry, which has now been split in two. Education Minister Andrei Fursenko, too, has been appointed a presidential aide with similar functions.

Among the president’s eight aides there are also former government ministers Elvira Nabiullina, Yuri Trutnev and Igor Shchyogolev. Former Transport Minister Igor Levitin has been appointed presidential adviser.

The Opposition in the State Duma has interpreted Tuesday’s appointments as ordinary drift of the center of decision-making to the Kremlin. “The fact that most of the former government ministers, such as Fursenko, Golikova, Levitin, Nabiullina, Shchyogolev and others have been given jobs of presidential aides in the Kremlin in my opinion, means only one thing. The real government will be there, while the new Cabinet under Dmitry Medvedev - formally the main one - in reality will a standby crew of the real Cabinet in the Kremlin,” says Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov. Many other experts think so, too.

The chief the International Institute for Political Expertise, Yevgeny Minchenko, is quoted by the daily Kommersant as saying the functions of former ministers who have received appointments in the presidential staff and the deputies that took their places are split. “The strategy will be formulated in the presidential staff, and the government will be translating it into the reality through presidential aides empowered to supervise the ministries.

The deputy president of the Center for Political Technologies, Alexei Makarkin, too, suspects that the former ministers will be causing “political influence on their successors,” while the latter, in turn, “will have direct access to the head of state.” The analyst believes that in this way Putin has managed to establish double control of the government – on the one hand, through his right-hand men (the ministers of foreign affairs, defense and finance), and on the other, indirectly, through former ministers, who have been transferred to the presidential staff, but retained influence in their former ministries. “However, if one takes an abstract look at this idyll, the system will appear a very complicated one. It is unclear how decisions will be made and who will be responsible for them – former ministers or their successors,” the analyst said.

“It is anyone’s guess whether the previous ministers, more experienced, will be lecturing the new ones,” the daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta quotes political scientist Boris Makarenko as saying. He believes that there has emerged another bureaucratic configuration, and it is already clear that “no personnel renewal has taken place in reality.” “The nature of government has not changed. So one should expect conflicts in a number of areas. In the system of state governance various sorts of bureaucratic tensions will develop, which would reduce the effectiveness of government.” The political scientist is certain that in the Kremlin a stand-by government has taken shape.

The head of the Foundation for Effective Politics, Gleb Pavlovsky, believes that Putin, back to the Kremlin again, is restoring the previous pattern of interaction between the presidential staff and the Cabinet: the government does its daily routine, while the presidential staff stays above it and slightly aloof, making adjustments and re-programming it from time to time.”

The expert says that the presidential staff will be unable to run the economy in the on-line mode. “It looks like a strange tadpole. A large and clumsy government, staffed with no bad specialists, is run by the presidential staff, which is obviously weaker – in terms of its organization and the inertia of the personnel composition. It is very unclear how it will handle the Cabinet of ministers – a sort of Rubik’s cube.

The vice-president of the Center for Political Technologies, Rostislav Turovsky, believes that the events may follow several scenarios: “In case conflicts get worse these structures may be turned into two hostile camps, because on either side there are major figures who are used to and capable of running political processes.”

The newly-elected president will find it extremely difficult to give up immediate control of the economy and the social sphere, says economist Nikita Krichevsky, quoted by the daily Novyie Izvestia. “This explains why many of the members of the previous government are now Vladimir Putin’s aides and advisers,” he said. “At the same time one should not consider the people moving to new offices in the Kremlin as a shadow Cabinet, because there is no administrative leverage. The Cabinet of Ministers carries out immediate control of all decisions.”

Given the way the government has been formed, it is the ex-ministers turned presidential aides who will be doing the real, serious work, a senior lecturer at the state governance department of the Higher School of Economics, Pavel Kudyukin, is quoted by Vedomosti as saying. These posts are not a consolation prize awarded to the retirees, but a promotion,” he said with certainty.

MOSCOW, May 23