Deputies of the Kirov region legislative assembly announced the intention to have a no confidence vote in incumbent governor Nikita Belykh. Experts say Belykh, known for his liberal views and connections to leaders of the "non-system opposition," will keep his job, and that there is a mutiny of local elites behind this situation. Experts also believe that the Kremlin will not allow regional deputies to pass such a decision.
"We've been clanging all bells since June 2012. Our position on Belykh is consistent; there is no solidarity behind it," secretary of the regional committee of the Communist Party Vladimir Osetrov told the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets. "The governor has discredited himself. Two of his advisers - Roman Shipov and Andrei Votinov -- are in prison. His former adviser Alexei Navalny is under investigation. Belykh's deputy Konstantin Arzamastsev is wanted by police. In actual fact, Belykh has set upa half-criminal human resources department in our region."
The Nezavisimaya Gazeta notes that the federal center "unobtrusively put the deputies in their place." Local United Russia members are preparing to consider the vote on no-confidence in the willful governor, the newspaper notes. The initiative caused bewilderment of their Moscow colleagues who called their move "arbitrariness."
It also caused turmoil in governing bodies of United Russia. Secretary of the Party's General Council Sergei Neverov stated that the decision on no confidence vote was solely "personal position" of 19 deputies of the Kirov region parliament: "it has not been coordinated with the regional branch nor with the Party's federal leadership."
Andrei Luchinin, head of the regional branch of United Russia, made a sharper comment: "No such initiative in any form has come from the Party. It's a personal initiative of regional legislator Valery Krepostnov. On Wednesday, the presidium of the political council will have a meeting and state our opinion about his action. I believe colleagues will support us in that there should be no governor resignation initiative."
The Kremlin preferred to refrain from comments. A source in the presidential administration drily told reporters that the Kremlin was aware of the situation in the Kirov region.
Leader of the Kirov region branch of the Yabloko Party Yevgeny Kokoulin drew attention to the ambiguity of the situation: "on the one hand, there is the reality, i.e. Belykh, an old friend of Navalny and the only regional leader who publicly does not support United Russia, is persecuted by Moscow. On the other, the governor, democratic in everyday life, has created a reverse style of regional governance."
In his opinion, the stir around Nikita Belykh might be used for canceling direct gubernatorial election in the province, due on September 14, 2014.
A source in the presidential administration told the Kommerstant that Belykh "is the creation of the head of state that a decision on him will be made by the president in accordance with the law."
"As for the parties, they certainly have the right to discuss the situation around the governor," the official said.
A Just Russia, whose representatives did not subscribe to the initiative, stated their support of the governor. A number of single constituency deputies threw their weight behind Belykh as well.
In an interview to the Nezavisimaya Gazeta, director general of the center for political information Alexei Mukhin underlined that it was psychological attack on Belykh by the ruling party. Boris Makarenko, vice president of the center for political technologies, noted a combination of the Kremlin and elites' resentment: "of course we cannot rule out that it's about Putin's delayed revenge for Belykh's former liberties and that the Kremlin decided to act by proxy, i.e. local deputies." But most likely, the Kirov region governor will keep office: "in the first place because it is disadvantageous to the country’s leadership to create the precedent when regional authorities prove to be disloyal to the incumbent governor."
Former leader of the Union of Right Wing Forces /SPS/ Leonid Gozman, cited by the Novye Izvestia, believes that nobody will allow regional deputies to make such a decision. If the Kremlin decides to fire Belykh, they will do it quietly. The law gives the president the right to fire a governor for loss of trust, i.e. without stating the reasons. "The Kremlin will never allow it to be done by impeachment, adopted by the legislative assembly," the politician explained. "Because if they oust the Kirov governor today, they will be able to do it to any governor tomorrow. And this implies the destruction of the power vertical."