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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Competence? Not Required for Governors

A year ago President Vladimir Putin abolished gubernatorial elections. Let's take a look at what we were promised and what results we have actually got.

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One of the arguments in favor of abolishing gubernatorial elections was that the people did not have a damned clue whom they ought to elect. But Putin was supposed to put everything right.

What he would put right became clear after Sergei Darkin was reappointed Primorye governor. (Any lingering doubts disappeared with the appointment of Oleg Kozhemyko as governor of the Koryaksky autonomous district in the Far East.)

What was even more interesting than the appointment itself was the reason for it. Darkin is not on good terms with Konstantin Pulikovsky, Putin's envoy to the Far East Federal District, and when Darkin was asked whether he was afraid of not being appointed, he replied on television that he could come to an agreement with anyone in the Kremlin apart from Pulikovsky. It would be hard to imagine a more open hint that all it takes to get appointed is handing money over to someone.

But it turned out that public demand is no reason to dismiss a governor. Mustafa Batdyev, president of Karachayevo-Cherkessia, has had to deal with locals storming his office on two occasions, the first time last November, by people who believed that seven relatives had been shot at Batdyev's son-in-law's dacha during a business meeting, and the second time in June, by Abazins protesting a regional parliament decision to transfer 1,000 hectares of land from their villages to the city of Ust-Dzhegut.

In North Ossetia, shortly after the Beslan tragedy in September last year, people assembled in front of the presidential palace in Vladikavkaz, demanding the resignation of then-President Alexander Dzasokhov for his management of the hostage crisis.

The Kremlin has forced the two most influential people in North Ossetia, Taimuraz Mamsurov and his rival, State Duma Deputy Arsen Fadzayev, of the Union of Right Forces, to get the people there to keep quiet. Mamsurov's reward for this was being made North Ossetian president, but the result was that a man who could have become the natural leader for his people came to power as a faithful servant of the Kremlin.

Thus another principle became clear: If the people have an outstanding leader, then he has to be sidelined. Nowhere is this principle more evident than in the Caucasus region, where strong leaders of ethnic groups are systematically set against the president. All this brings a dual benefit: The head of the republic pays money in order to stay in his post, and local leaders lose their authority.

Being unable to govern a republic, consequently, is not reason for dismissal. The Beslan hostage-taking was prepared in Ingushetia, where Chechen rebel warlord Shamil Basayev is thought to live.

Just what Ingush President Amurat Zyazikov actually controls is unclear, as on June 22, rebel fighters briefly took control of the capital, Magas. But all that Zyazikov got for this was a medal for services to the fatherland.

But it can't be said that regional leaders have never been dismissed at all. For example, Saratov Governor Dmitry Ayatskov had a powerful enemy in the shape of the deputy head of the United Russia faction in the State Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin. So he "disappeared" from his post amid a scandal, and criminal charges were brought against his wife.

And so a year has passed, and the conclusion we can draw is that the only grounds for dismissal of a regional head are a carefully conducted palace coup -- or if someone has paid a bigger bribe to take up the post.

Yulia Latynina hosts a political talk show on Ekho Moskvy radio.