Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Surkov's Ultimatum

Yesterday, Kremlin power broker Vladislav Surkov was reassigned, apparently in response to the massive popular protests over the conduct of the Duma elections. Although Surkov is now out of his old post, I have my doubts that he, or others in the Kremlin will now refrain in some way from their continued attempts to control the election process. 

Surkov has been fixing elections for Putin since the very beginning, and although his title "The Gray Cardinal" is well-earned, his efforts have not always met with success.  For example, when I was in Vladivostok in 2001, and the Center was doing everything possible to get one of its own into the Primorye Governorship, Surkov was very active in pushing the Center candidate, Gennadiy Apanasenko, over the local favorites.  The interesting thing is that rebellious Primoryans eventually elected a local candidate anyway, Sergey Darkin.  Darkin then made his peace with the Kremlin, and has been Governor of Primorye ever since. 

Excerpt from Draft Chapter 12.3
Vladivostok 2000-2002
The Surkov Ultimatum.
On the same day that Tolstoshein became Acting Governor, PolPred Pulikovskiy chaired a Round Table meeting of the candidates in Spassk Dalniy.  The meeting was ostensibly billed as a discussion of agricultural policy, but in fact it was intended as a Come-to-Jesus meeting in which Moscow and Pulikovskiy intended to lay down the law to their recalcitrant charges in Primorye.  The original guest list included all 14 gubernatorial candidates, as well as newly-crowned vice Governor Tolstoshein, ex-Governor Nazdratenko and Moscow emissaries Vladislav Surkov (Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration), Nikolay Patrushev (FSB Chief) and Boris Gryzlov (Minister of Internal Affairs).  The press was not admitted to the meeting, but according to our sources, the message from the Center was quite clear.  Surkov stated that Moscow saw Gennadiy Apanasenko as the only acceptable candidate for Governor.  If anyone else was elected, he threatened, the regional chiefs of the power ministries (all Dubinin supporters) would be sacked and Moscow would introduce direct Presidential rule, with Pulikovskiy assuming the powers of Governor.  Surkov was quoted as saying that Primorye was a “политическая лужа" (political swamp), and “only Apanasenko can save Primorye.”  

Had the original list of participants actually attended the meeting, this message might have had more effect.  Unfortunately, however, only Pulikovskiy, Apanasenko, Surkov and a few minor local officials showed up, thus making a mockery of the entire proceedings.  When word got out about Surkov’s message, it only fanned the flames of resentment among Primorye’s politicians, who, as usual, preferred to go their own way without the interference of outsiders, especially those from Moscow.  Members of the local Duma huffed and puffed, threatening to protest to President Putin about the interference of the Presidential Administration, and the local press had a field day.  Meanwhile, Dubinin was summoned to Moscow, presumably in an effort to force him to drop out.  The effort was unsuccessful, and in fact prompted a public statement by President Putin that he favored no particular candidate in the gubernatorial race.  Pulikovskiy’s efforts to strong-arm Primorye’s political elite began to look increasingly ridiculous.

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