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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Parties May Get Say in Who Is Governor

After ditching gubernatorial elections for a system under which the president effectively appoints governors, President Vladimir Putin now intends to allow political parties who win regional legislative elections to nominate candidates for governor, representatives of all four State Duma factions said Monday.

The planned change is designed to enable the Kremlin and United Russia, the pro-Kremlin party that has been winning one regional legislature election after another, to strengthen their grip on the regions, political analysts said.

Putin is expected to float the proposal during a meeting Wednesday with the speakers of both houses of parliament and the leaders of the Duma factions, said representatives of the Rodina and Communist factions, which oppose the plan.

"Changes in the law on governors will be the main topic of the discussion," Rodina spokesman Sergei Butin said by telephone Monday.

Putin made hints about his interest in getting political parties involved in the selection of governors during his state of the nation address on April 25.

"The president could propose a representative of the party that wins regional [legislative] elections as the candidate for this [governor's] post," Putin said.

A Kremlin source told Vedomosti, which broke the news about the development in its Monday issue, that under the current version of the plan, Putin will reserve the right to reject candidates proposed by the victorious party and pick an alternative, who would then be confirmed by the regional legislature.

Putin moved to abolish direct gubernatorial elections after the Beslan school attack in September, arguing that the change was needed to strengthen the state. Legislation allowing the president to nominate gubernatorial candidates to regional legislatures for their confirmation came into force at the start of this year.

Under the law, the president can disband a regional legislature if it rejects his candidate more than once. The president also has the right to fire governors.

Sergei Reshulsky, a spokesman for the Communist Party's Duma faction, complained that the proposal would do nothing to make the selection of governors more democratic because the president would still have the final say.

"I don't see any improvement. The law is bad, and this won't make it better," Reshulsky said by telephone.

"A governor would still be fully dependent on a president who has the right to get rid of him whenever he wants."

But representatives of the other two Duma factions, United Russia and the Liberal Democratic Party, or LDPR, insisted that the change would make the process of picking governors more democratic.

"People voted for a certain party, and this party would get the right to push forward its candidate for governor. This is democratic because people are choosing, even if they are doing it indirectly through the party they voted for," LDPR Deputy Alexander Kurdyumov said.

He was echoed by Oleg Kovalyov, a senior member of the United Russia faction in the Duma.

"Parties that win the elections should be given the opportunity to put forward their candidates," Kovalyov said.

Yury Korgunyuk, a political analyst with the Indem research center, said that the Kremlin was trying to ensure that United Russia would able to continue to expand its influence in the regions.

"Those in power will use their administrative resources to keep United Russia in power. Elections will be invalidated in regions where it does not achieve its goal," he said.

United Russia has won a majority in 16 of the 20 regional legislative elections held so far this year. About half of the country's 89 governors and regional presidents have joined United Russia.