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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Governors Appointed for Loyalty and Votes

Since acquiring the power to appoint and remove governors two years ago, President Vladimir Putin has avoided a major shake-up, allowing most regional leaders to hang on to their jobs.

The terms of 23 governors came to an end in 2005, and another 21 asked for the president's backing before their terms had expired. Putin reappointed the overwhelming majority of them. Last year, the president retained six regional leaders and replaced three.

Putin seems to have been guided in his personnel decisions by a desire to minimize the negative consequences of a change in leadership for the Kremlin. "When it comes to replacing governors, the most important thing for the Kremlin is not to make the situation any worse," said Rostislav Turovsky, a regional analyst with the Center for Political Technologies.

The logic behind this policy is familiar from any large bureaucracy, where loyalty to superiors and the willingness to follow orders are the most important qualities for employees eager to keep their jobs.

In Putin's so-called power vertical, this means governors are expected to mobilize regional elites to carry out the Kremlin's major initiatives, such as the merger of regions, and to ensure victory for United Russia at the polls.

"In deciding the fate of a governor, the Kremlin looks at how effective he or she was in implementing its initiatives," said Nikolai Petrov of the Moscow Carnegie Center. "If he proved a bad manager, he won't be in demand during the critical upcoming election cycle."

Two of the five governors whose terms expire in 2007 are likely to be sent packing by the president. Two more should return for another term. The unknown in this equation is Mayor Yury Luzhkov, analysts of regional politics say.

Luzhkov has run Moscow -- the most populous region in the country -- since 1992, and remains extremely popular with city residents. His current term ends in December, just as voters go the the polls in the State Duma election.

Replacing Luzhkov against his will could backfire by turning voters against the Kremlin's candidates.

"If Luzhkov wants to stay on, Putin will not object," Turovsky said.

Luzhkov, 70, said publicly several times last year that he would not seek another term in office.

It is possible that Luzhkov would be allowed to remain in power through the presidential election in March 2008, and then be replaced by the new president, Petrov said.

Sherig-Ool Oorzhak, president of the republic of Tuva, and Buryat leader Leonid Potapov are the most likely candidates for the ax in 2007, analysts say.

Oorzhak, who headed the United Russia ticket in last October's regional parliamentary election, vowed to deliver at least 80 percent of the vote. The party managed just 46 percent, however, embarrassing party leaders in Moscow who had promised to sweep that round of regional elections.

This setback demonstrated to the Kremlin that Oorzhak was incapable of mobilizing local elites -- the minimum job requirement set by the Kremlin, said Alexei Titkov, an analyst with the Institute of Regional Politics.

In the republic of Buryatia, Potapov either could not or chose not to quell ethnic Buryat resistance to the Kremlin's plan to merge the Ust-Ordynsky Buryatsky autonomous district with the Irkutsk region in 2006, as well as the proposed merger this year of the Aginsk Buryatsky autonomous district with the Chita region.

Potapov will be 72 by the time his current term ends in July, providing another strong argument for his replacement, Titkov said.

"When governors were directly elected, age was not an important factor. The Kremlin, by contrast, has restored bureaucratic logic to the process, including bidding farewell to public servants when they hit 65," he said.

Analysts agreed that two other governors -- Alexander Khloponin in the Krasnoyarsk region and Ivan Malakhov in the Sakhalin region -- could well be appointed to another term.

Putin may also have to decide this year whether to require Roman Abramovich to stay on as governor of the Chukotka autonomous district. Abramovich reportedly submitted his resignation to the president last December, but no reaction has followed.