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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Regional Lawmakers Flex New Muscles

MTMikhail Yevdokimov
Emboldened by their newly acquired power to elect governors, several regional legislatures have started mounting challenges against incumbent governors in hope of removing them.

The moves, which threaten to ignite regional instability, could pose a serious headache for President Vladimir Putin, who ordered the new legislation that eliminated the popular vote for governors in favor of the new system under which the president proposes candidacies to regional legislatures for their approval.

Two regional legislatures late last week held votes of no confidence in governors. The Altai region's legislature almost unanimously approved a no-confidence motion against Governor Mikhail Yevdokimov on Thursday, while lawmakers in the neighboring eastern Siberian region of the Altai republic tried to pass a motion demanding the resignation of Governor Mikhail Lapshin the same day. The motion needed 28 votes to pass but fell short by six.

Both governors are accused of mismanagment.

Lapshin, whose first term ends early next year and who is also leader of the leftist Agrarian Party, called the no-confidence initiative "a political order," Kommersant reported Friday.

A group of local lawmakers behind the initiative said it now intended to ask federal prosecutors to investigate Lapshin for possible misuse of federal funds.

Since the new law on governors came into force Jan. 1, regional opposition groups have become braver and have more openly expressed their viewpoints in hope that the Kremlin will listen, analysts said. "Regional opposition groups are using the new law in an attempt to get rid of their governors," said Yury Korgunyuk, an analyst with the Indem think tank. "But Putin will probably listen to them only when he wants to replace a governor."

Regional politicians realized that they could put pressure on disliked governors after Putin recently fired Koryaksky Governor Vladimir Loginov for failing to provide winter heating, said Andrei Piontkovsky, an independent political analyst.

"Regional elites have found a way to get rid of democratically elected governors if they do not like them. This is going to create a lot of instability in the regions," Piontkovsky said.

"Putin will soon realize that he has made a big mistake by pushing for the new law," he said.

Meanwhile, longtime Chelyabinsk Governor Pyotr Sumin, whose third term expires in December, asked Thursday for Putin's blessing to remain in office, Kommersant reported. Sumin was first elected in 1996 and re-elected in 2000.

At the same time, Penza Governor Vasily Bochkaryov withdrew a request he sent in mid-March for Putin's blessing for a third term. Bochkaryov was first elected in April 1998 and re-elected in 2002.