06MOSCOW12557, UNITED RUSSIA STUMBLES ON REGIONAL LEGISLATION

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW12557 2006-11-21 13:43 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO5099
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #2557/01 3251343
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 211343Z NOV 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5337
INFO RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 012557 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/21/2016 
TAGS: PINR KDEM PGOV RS
SUBJECT: UNITED RUSSIA STUMBLES ON REGIONAL LEGISLATION 
 
Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns: 1.4(d) 
 
1. (C) SUMMARY: United Russia is far from united on the 
direct election of mayors.  United Russia Duma members 
introduced legislation to eliminate the direct election of 
mayors, in what may have been a misguided attempt to 
implement Putin's call to transfer more authority to the 
regions.  Predictable public opposition surfaced, and the 
Kremlin has distanced itself from the proposal.  That said, 
the legislation is not dead and bears watching. END SUMMARY 
 
2.  (U) On October 31, three United Russia Duma Deputies 
announced that they were introducing legislation that would 
effectively change mayors of provincial capitals from elected 
to appointed officials.  The legislation was drafted by the 
Chairman of the Local Government Committee, Vladimir Mokriy, 
who insisted that this legislation actually promoted 
democracy because it would make mayors more accountable. 
"Currently, mayors often attempt to stifle criticism by 
simply saying, 'I was elected and may do what I please.' 
This new legislation will make mayors accountable, because 
they will now know that they can be replaced if they do not 
take care of their people."  The proposal drew harsh 
criticism from the media, and the legislation was pulled back 
by the committee the day before it was to be introduced. 
Mokriy gave no explanation for the delay, and the spokesman 
for United Russia's Duma faction said only that they wished 
to consult with the mayors before proceeding. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
United Russia Changes Course on Appointing Mayors 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
3. (U) At the Russian Local Self-Government Council held in 
Moscow on November 13-15, United Russia Chairman Boris 
Gryzlov opposed the elimination of mayoral elections.  He did 
not completely dismiss the legislation, however, saying that 
it had been introduced by "respectable deputies" and merited 
serious consideration. 
 
4. (C) Gryzlov spoke about the pressing need for regional 
reform, because the success of national priority projects in 
health care and education was dependent upon successful local 
implementation.  He cited poor municipal statistics, which 
make it difficult either to gauge local needs or to measure 
the government's success in addressing them. Gryzlov also 
said that there were too many federal employees at the local 
level and that resources should be transferred from the 
federal budget to local budgets, while the number of federal 
employees in the regions should be cut. The draft legislation 
reportedly contains provisions to reduce the number of 
federal employees working on the regional level.  Leonid 
Goryainov, Head of United Russia's Information Directorate, 
told us on November 15 that the legislation was a work in 
progress, and that United Russia's goal was to implement 
President Putin's directive to transfer more power to the 
regions. He said that this topic and the legislation will be 
discussed at length at the United Russia party conference in 
Yekaterinburg on December 2. 
 
--------------------------------------- 
Kremlin Opposed to Mayoral Appointments 
--------------------------------------- 
 
5. (U) Presidential Assistant Igor Shuvalov, speaking to the 
Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe 
(coincidentally also held in Moscow during the week of 
November 13), publicly embarrassed the Governor of Altay Kray 
while expressing the Kremlin's opposition to the legislation. 
Shuvalov quizzed Governor Karlin via video link in front of 
the congress, asking him if appointed mayors would be a good 
thing for Russia. Karlin (apparently not knowing the "right" 
answer) said "if given the opportunity, I would make good use 
of it."  Shuvalov then rebuked him, saying that regional 
authority should be "balanced" and not a "top-down 
construction like the army." 
 
------------------ 
Echoes from Samara 
------------------ 
 
6. (C) According to Public Chamber member Vyachislav 
Glazychev, an expert on regional politics, United Russia's 
opposition to this legislation has much less to do with 
preserving local democracy than it does with avoiding 
uncontrollable groundswells of public discontent.  He noted 
that this summer in Samara, the city council attempted to 
pass a new city charter that would have eliminated the direct 
election of the mayor by making him appointed by the council. 
 The public responded with protests and a petition drive that 
collected more than 420,000 signatures. "Money can't buy 
that," said Glazychev "Maybe you could buy 20,000 signatures, 
 
MOSCOW 00012557  002 OF 002 
 
 
but nearly half a million people means that they had tapped 
into a live wire of public emotion, and that scares them. And 
if it could happen in Samara, it could certainly happen in 
Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, and Nizhniy Novgorod." 
 
7. (U) The mayors at the Russian Local Self-Government 
Council were either United Russia members or unaffiliat
ed 
with any party.  According to Glazychev, they were very 
concerned that their fate would be the same as Samara Mayor 
Georgiy Limanskiy who, ironically, was voted out of office by 
the same groundswell that he had used to fight his city 
council.  While worried about losing their jobs, they were 
also concerned that United Russia was weakening its support 
among the people just when it needed to compete with the new 
"A Just Russia" party. Yekaterinburg Mayor Arkadiy 
Chernetskiy, who will play host to the United Russia 
conference in December, told the press that trying to 
eliminate mayoral elections would lead to great losses at the 
polls for United Russia. 
 
--------------------------------- 
United Russia's Misstep Explained 
--------------------------------- 
 
8. (C) Goryainov explained away the public dispute as a 
natural by-product of democracy. This was not really a 
dispute over the ends, but simply a difference of opinion on 
methods.  "On the whole, United Russia supports the 
legislation; there are only small parts that are 
objectionable." Glazychev explained it differently: "United 
Russia is not really a party. It is too big, and too loose a 
structure. And now, because they are not the only party with 
a direct link to the Kremlin, they must naturally 
occasionally be out of step."  Glazychev dismissed Gryzlov's 
purported aim of eliminating large numbers of federal 
bureaucrats from regional centers as "rhetoric," noting thatQsince I was young 
boy, under Stalin, the Kremlin has been 
calling for reducing the numbers of bureaucrats. And every 
year, the number increases." 
 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
 
9. (C) Clearly, the introduction of this legislation was not 
well-coordinated or thought through within United Russia 
prior to Mokriy's October 31 news conference.  The party, 
possibly reacting to the sting of its first electoral loss -- 
the Samara mayoral race -- rushed legislation that would 
prevent a recurrence.  The Kremlin then used that miscue to 
distance itself from an unpopular measure, and in the 
process, bolstered the second Kremlin-sponsored party "A Just 
Russia." The bill to eliminate the direct election of mayors, 
however, is not dead and bears watching. 
BURNS

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