'Minnikhanov will have to choose: retaining the name or the post'
Political strategist Aleksey Kurtov — about Rustam Minnikhanov, Artem Zdunov, and what to do with outgoing governors
Rustam Minnikhanov, the last regional president in the Russian Federation, will become the head after all — that's what's coming. And managers from Tatarstan will adorn any Russian region. These points are put forward by Aleksey Kurtov, the president of the Russian Association of Political Consultants, in the interview with Realnoe Vremya. And also about the potential of Artem Zdunov, a native of Tatarstan, as the head of Mordovia, about the prospects for extending the gubernatorial terms and how the introduction of anti-covid restrictions have affected the positions of various Russian governors.
“Zdunov is doing a good job, certainly”
Have the recent elections to the State Duma changed anything in the positions of the Volga Region governors? Were there any surprises in your opinion, or did everything go on an ongoing basis?
So much for that. Rather, everything went on a routine basis. There was nothing explosive, and not only in the Volga Region, but throughout country. We see that even in protest regions, for example in Khabarovsk Krai, the elections went smoothly. Mikhail Degtyarev's victory was quite landslide there.
The only news that was interesting and discussed in advance was the entry of the New People into the State Duma. And it happened. Now we'll see the most interesting: how they will prove themselves there and whether they can really become one of the factions, a real big party. This is the only mystery that interests us right now.
Former Tatarstan Minister Artem Zdunov won the election of the head of Mordovia, gaining more than 78 per cent of the vote. How can you assess his positions and prospects?
Apparently, he managed to breathe life into his image so that people would believe him. This is a recent trend: if the region is not very protesting and is in a normal state, hope accumulates there that a new leader will come and it will be even better. There are small republics, for example Kalmykia: do you remember with what interest they met the new head there two years ago when he was elected? There was a high turnout rate. But two years have passed, and the degree of support is gradually decreasing. Although we cannot say that it has completely disappeared, of course. Such over-expectations are a trend of the time.
Now the same thing is happening with Mordovia, where Zdunov gained 80 percent, Tyva, where the new governor, Vladislav Khovalyg, won with almost 87 per cent. It is very interesting to see what will happen in two years. As a rule, after overestimated expectations, people become sober and begin to be more demanding of the manager. Zdunov is doing a good job, certainly. He managed to find a common language with both the population and the elites and built his election campaign quite confidently. God grant him to continue in the same vein, so that people do not have the feeling that they have overestimated him.
Personally, it seems to me that he is a very rational and interesting person. I think he will succeed. I've only heard very positive things about him. I must say that managers from Tatarstan will adorn any region.
Zdunov managed to find a common language with both the population and the elites and built his election campaign quite confidently. God grant him to continue in the same vein, so that people do not have the feeling that they have overestimated him.
“The appointment of Sokolov as mayor of Saransk is an advance on his growth”
By the way, about managers from Tatarstan. Ilya Sokolov, a 32-year-old native of Naberezhnye Chelny, has recently been appointed acting mayor of Saransk. He used to work in the team with Zdunov. How do you assess the trend when young people who have not yet managed to prove themselves in high positions get such serious appointments?
As a fairly adult person, I have a certain skepticism about young people who hold high social positions.
In the political, and now in the managerial traditions of Germany, there is such a thing that they try not to appoint a person younger than 37-40 years old to high leadership positions. They believe that despite that a person can be smart, educated, smart, social experience is such a thing that is accumulated over the years of life. It is impossible at the age of 25 to understand everything that happens to elderly, middle-aged and young people, as well as with children.
Therefore, the appointment of Sokolov as mayor is such an advance on his growth. Whether he will be able to perform not only as a manager, but also as a person who understands social subtleties is a big question. But Saransk is not an easy city. I think the new head of Mordovia understood what he was doing.
What do you mean by social experience that cannot be acquired, for example, aged 30? What is important in the social aspect for the head of the region?
First of all, social experience — it is the number of contacts made and acquired in your life with other people. I do not exclude that you can remain without social experience even at the age of 60 if you are a mathematician and have been sitting at a desk all your life. Then age is no longer so important. But social experience is still the experience of interacting with people.
A person can be an excellent manager, well-trained, but the number of contacts and understanding of what people are talking about forms a certain view of the manager, not even on the legality, but on the correctness of his actions.
He can do everything according to the law, but people will not accept it. Therefore, it is necessary always look here — what is inside the law, what is the spirit of the law? At the same time, I am in no way talking about violations of the law. I mean, many things need to be felt, and this is gained only from social experience, especially in the management of such complex territories as the city.
The appointment of Sokolov as mayor is such an advance on his growth. Whether he will be able to perform not only as a manager, but also as a person who understands social subtleties is a big question.
“Any restrictive action of the head of the region is initially perceived as undesirable”
This week, some regions, including Chuvashia, has announced the introduction of additional anti-covid restrictions, which are quite painful for both businesses and the society. How much can this weaken the position of the governors?
It seems to me that people are now quite confused about QR codes, the introduction of various restrictions, mandatory vaccinations. That is, there is no single opinion. Despite the fact that the pandemic has been raging for a year and a half, we do not have common approaches, standards and understanding. And not only in Russia, but all over the world. Therefore, any restrictive action of the head of the region is initially perceived as undesirable.
It seems to me that the acceptance or non-acceptance of such measures by society depends on the art of the authorities to present their necessity. If you open statistics, talk to people honestly, if you show, for example, that there are not enough resources to win, it seems to me that the majority of people will perceive such restrictions normally, properly. But you need to know how to talk to people.
How realistic is it to show actual statistics at all?
Well, that's why many people are bothering... If for two weeks we have one figure of people who died from Covid-19 a day — the same every day, how will you take it? It doesn't happen that way, and people feel it. But after all, we can talk not only about the number of dead and sick, the state of the bed capacity, but also about additional costs for medicine to the detriment of other social spheres. It is necessary to talk about difficulties, about people who have suffered from the disease and can tell something from their own experience. There are many options for talking to society: it is not necessary to count beds or deaths at all. It seems to me that there is a lot of room for possibilities here.
That is, in your opinion, the introduction of restrictions will not necessarily weaken the position of the governor? Is it important not only to declare restrictions, but also to conduct explanatory work?
We talk all the time about the new sincerity, but for some reason no one explains what it is. Last year we conducted an interesting study — we investigated the word “justice”. They asked: “What is justice for you, residents of our country?"
It turned out that justice is not an equal distribution of resources and not the same salary (people began to realise that it is differentiated and depends on the person, position, etc.). And justice in relation to the actions of the authorities, oddly enough, is an understanding on the basis of which a particular law or order is adopted, what responsibility and who will be responsible for this decision if it is or is not implemented. By justice, people want to understand correctness and agreement with the actions of the authorities.
If you open statistics, talk to people honestly, if you show, for example, that there are not enough resources to win, it seems to me that the majority of people will perceive such restrictions normally, properly. But you need to know how to talk to people.
In the case of restrictions, the same principle works: if you talk to people honestly, they will take it reasonably. The right tactic is the words: “I have to make such decision. Think as you like, but if we don't do it, then this and this await us.” That is, support or resistance will depend only on the communicative capabilities of the teams organising the work of the first person on the territory.
“Minnikhanov just rocks”
The most illustrative example was in Moscow, when Sergey Sobyanin imposed strict restrictions and encountered serious resistance. Did it shake his position?
At that time, absolutely it did. No one understood why and for what. Besides, many nodded at the inadequacy of the measures: if millions of people use the subway, but you can't go outside, even walk a dog, it was perceived completely indistinctly. Again, it was not explained why and for what such restrictions were introduced and who would be responsible for that people were left without money. There is no justice in such position: you force us to do something, but you are not responsible for it. Therefore, this conversation should be constant: “I am forced to make such decision, I understand what restrictions it imposes on you, I accept it, but you also share my responsibility to you.”
Did the situation smoothed out in the case with Sobyanin?
Sobyanin was quite inventive in introducing and lifting various anti-covid measures. In general, he did well with Moscow on the coronavirus situation. The first shock from the shortage of doctors and ambulances has passed. Moscow, thanks to large resources and organisational system, went through the situation well. And the shock that was at the beginning of last summer, which Sobyanin caused for himself, has definitely passed: they forgave him for that. But the mayor's team is also working very effectively now.
I would like to hear your opinion on the positions of the governors of the Volga Region.
Well, what to say about Kazan, Tatarstan... It think that Minnikhanov just rocks.
I'm not going to single out someone on purpose and say that someone is in a bad way right now. The governor's team is formed quite equivalent. I don't see the heads of the regions now who are not doing enough in some way. Technologies of interaction with people, work with the budget, on horizontal connections between regions are worked out well. The population sometimes disagrees with the governor rather on a political principle, as it was in Khabarovsk Krai. They are all quite prosperous.
So is the situation levelling off?
Yes, and a lot of effort was put into it. Governors are trained, their deputies are trained, and really very high-class specialists do it. They are trained not only to do their job, but also to build horizontal links with neighbouring regions. It's right noticeable — it's great. Look at what the head of Udmurtia, Alexander Brechalov, is doing in Izhevsk now. He's just great. He is raising such a difficult region, and they talk about him all over the country.
Look at what the head of Udmurtia, Alexander Brechalov, is doing in Izhevsk now. He's just great. He is raising such a difficult region, and they talk about him all over the country.
“There are not enough ministerial portfolios for all outgoing governors”
A number of bills concerning governors have been submitted to the State Duma. One of them proposes to lift the ban on governors being elected for more than two consecutive terms. It turns out that some heads of regions will be reset, including the president of Tatarstan?
As usual, it is difficult to comment on such complex system moves. But I see several aspects. The first is the stabilisation of the political and economic fields for the future presidential elections of Russia. I would not like any surprises. The current government is very fond of stability and manageability. Therefore, in such large regions that this bill may concern, such as Moscow, Tatarstan, this is aimed at making the system more stable.
If you look at this story with humor, it is quite possible that a new agreement is being concluded with the governors. Not like before: you have served two gubernatorial terms, and now you can become a minister. There are not enough ministerial portfolios for all outgoing governors. What to do with so many ministers? Now, it seems to me, there is a conversation going on with these governors: “Guys, now your skills are needed at the local level. You only need to grow in breadth, becoming more wealthy in terms of management in your region. Please work at the local level.” The Government of the Russian Federation, as we can see, is quite tightly formed. And where should the governors go after two terms? If only to the upper chamber, but even there all the seats are already occupied. Indeed, what to do with them if 25 governors will be released every four years? Even the posts of ambassadors will not be enough for that much.
We can look at this question from the other side. Maybe there is nowhere to put the governors, but there is no decent change for them yet?
About 10 years ago, we jumped the age limit of social maturity, which we talked about at the beginning of the interview. We have a lot of young people in the government, in the executive, legislative bodies and in the governor's corps. It turned out that after 6-8 years, when they need to be replaced, they are still quite substantial by age, they have nowhere to go. Ten years ago,a serious age-related renewal of senior personnel began. And now they are faced with the fact that they need to extend the conditional governor's retirement age. This is such a reference, an allusion to the increase in the retirement age. If the people need to work for five years longer, then let the governors also work for five years more— the score is 1:1.
“If one chooses the governor but the other removes, logic is lost'
A bill has also been submitted to the State Duma, which expands the grounds for the early termination of the powers of the heads of regions due to the loss of confidence in the president of Russia. What's this for?
The legislative framework is just brought into line with the practice that already exists. The second reason: just one action — to withdraw the governor simply because of loss of trust — is clearly not enough. You can't remove the governor every time, for every offense.
The removal of the governor is such a shake-up for the region. So the president of the Russian Federation has the opportunity to make a warning shake with his index finger — to threaten. These are such educational measures, there is no way without them.
If I had my way, I would have appointed governors long ago. I would call them governor-generals of all territories. Because if one chooses and the other removes, the logic of the federal structure is lost. It would be right to return to the practice of 2004 and remove the electability of governors. But this is my private opinion. If there is a state vertical, let it be and the president of the Russian Federation is responsible for it. But mayors should be elected.
If I had my way, I would have appointed governors long ago. I would call them governor-generals of all territories. Because if one chooses and the other removes, the logic of the federal structure is lost.
That is, in your opinion, if the President of the Russian Federation is authorised to remove governors, then it is him who should appoint them, not the population?
Yes, that's my point of view. But in this case there will be a discrepancy with the constitutional structure of our country. Formally, we have a federal relationship between the central state and the territories, so the territory itself must choose its own head. It seems to me that during this convocation, the State Duma deputies will put this inconsistency in order.
Why then mayors need to be elected?
Because the mayoralty is not a state power, but a local government. And local self-government implies that people manage themselves, choose their own leader, trust him to monitor how he works.
And the state power, whose structure includes governors, should work according to its vertical. Although changes are also possible here in connection with the president's request for the construction of a vertical of state public power.
“Minnikhanov will have to choose between the title of the position and the post”
A bill has been submitted to the State Duma, which establishes the common name of the highest official for all regions of the country — the head of the subject of the Russian Federation. What will happen to the president of Tatarstan, the last of the heads of regions bearing such a name?
I have a feeling that it is coming to the point that Minnikhanov will have to choose whether to remain president or remain the head of the republic.
Why is this such an acute question? Is it really so annoying that there is also a leader in Tatarstan who is called the president?
The current government strives for predictability and clarity. This implies sameness in relationships, structure. And when one region is knocked out even on such a basis as the name of the top official… Although this was already the last concession that Tatarstan had left. The discussion of the completion of the agreement on the delimitation of powers went quite difficult. Tatarstan somehow survived this, retaining the name for its president of the republic. But it seems to me that it is coming to the point that all subjects will be equal on a formal basis and on the same basis all regional leaders will become heads of territories.
I think that Tatarstan is a territory that is on everyone's lips, which no one needs to prove anything to. Tatarstan is ahead of almost all territories both in political terms, and in terms of management, and in terms of preserving and multiplying human capital. So worrying about the name... is not the case. In my opinion, this is a psychological rather than a political issue.
At the same time, many visitors to Tatarstan still call the republic a special region. No matter how you align, deeds speak for themselves…
I absolutely agree with that. But I am not a resident of Tatarstan, and for me, the loss of the title of the first head from here does not look as traumatic as for Tatarstan residents. I think that Tatarstan is a territory that is on everyone's lips, which no one needs to prove anything to. Tatarstan is ahead of almost all territories both in political terms, and in terms of management, and in terms of preserving and multiplying human capital. So worrying about the name... is not the case.
In my opinion, this is a psychological rather than a political issue. So, perhaps now Minnikhanov will have to choose between retaining the name or retaining the post.
What if he chooses to retain the name?
Then, perhaps, he will be the last president of Tatarstan.
Will there be an autumn gubernatorial fall this year? Which heads of regions have unshakable positions, and under whom is the chair wobbling?
Despite the fact that the control system has leveled off, there are places where first-person fatigue is observed. It seems to me that before the New Year we will see several people who will come to Putin with a request to resign. But who it will be, I would not guess yet.