Staunton, October 9 – Vladimir Putin’s Presidential Administration not only occupies the former premises of the CPSU Central Committee Secretariat on Staraya ploshchad but also increasingly resembles that agency which, although also not mentioned in the constitution, is far more powerful than the agencies of the Russian state that are, according to Vadim Shtepa.
The recent appointment of Sergey Kiriyenko to be first deputy head of the Presidential Administration attracted new attention to that agency, one created by Yeltsin’s decree in 1996, given the centralization of power under Putin and the way he has used this bureaucracy (spektr.press/ck-kpss-2-0-pochemu-administraciya-prezidenta-rossii-vazhnee-parlamenta-i-pravitelstva/).
According to Shtepa, “the role of the Presidential Administration in current Russian politics is really comparable with that of the CPSU Central Committee in Soviet times. But even the Soviet Constitution was more honest about this” because its infamous Article 6 specified that the party was playing the “leading and directing role” in the country.
That is something the current Russian constitution and current Russian laws don’t do, Shtepa continues, but “in fact, present-day Russia has returned to this model, [and] the first deputy head of the Presidential Administration who is responsible for domestic policy plays a role analogous to ‘the gray cardinal’ Suslov under Brezhnev.”
The occupant of that position then and now has a significant which “immeasurably exceeds any minister or even the speaker of parliament.” Indeed, the Russian commentator say, when its former occupant, Vyacheslav Volodin, was shifted to that position after the Duma vote, this was a clear demotion.
“A significant part of Russian laws,” Shtepa says, “are developed precisely in the Presidential Administration, and the Duma only votes for them,” again just like in Soviet times. When the PA was created, its first head was Anatoly Chubais; the next year, the head of its control administration became Vladimir Putin; and in 2003-2005, it was headed by Dmitry Medvedev, all indications of the importance of this institution.
At present, the PA has 21 subdivisions and includes as well presidential advisors and the plenipotentiary representatives of the president in the federal districts (kremlin.ru/structure/administration/departments). Intriguingly, this arrangement has been copied in Belarus and in Kazakhstan.