President Vladimir Putin accepted the resignation of Russia’s prime minister Mikhail Fradkov today and perplexed Russia-watchers by nominating Victor Zubkov, the little-known head of the Federal Financial Monitoring Service, for the premier's post.
Andy of Siberian Light writes:
[…] The move seems to have wrong-footed most analysts, and the new, updated consensus seems to that there is a big unresolved power struggle between rival Kremlin clans, and that Zubkov got the job because he’s inoffensive (see, for example, the BBC). But, if that’s the case, why did Fradkov resign as Prime Minister in the first place?
Personally, I think it’s because Putin’s got a wicked sense of humour, and enjoys nothing better than spending his days winding up Kremlinologists.
Lyndon of Scraps of Moscow bids farewell to Fradkov, writes more on the “Kremlinological tea-leaf-reading” – and concludes, in response to a commenter:
[…] Russia is often prediction-proof, which is one of the reasons we so love watching it.
Nor is the move all that strange by Russian political standards. Putin is simply repeating what his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, did in 1999. Some will remember that on 9 August 1999, Yeltsin suddenly fired then Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin. Yeltsin appointed the then virtually unknown Vladimir Putin in Stepashin’s place. At the time, Yeltsin’s move was also to “ensure the continuity” of his political course. […] Putin’s appointment paved the way for his becoming President, a position that gave him the power to smash Yeltsin’s clan and drive the oligarchs that ran it into exile. Could Zubkov’s appointment be the harbinger of something similar to come?
W. Shedd of The Accidental Russophile isn't surprised, either:
However, I had been pointing out in other forums for weeks now that if Putin plans a return to the presidency in 2012, it would serve his purposes to nominate someone less powerful and entrenched than either Ivanov or Medvedev. After all, why would either one of those candidates step aside for Putin 2012? And wouldn't a successful 4 years in office by either Ivanov or Medvedev create a greater potential for a political split or division in Russia?
[…] I had been thinking his choice would be someone such as Valentina Matviyenko, mayor of St. Petersburg. Putin might still do something of that nature, nominate a different candidate for the presidency. The more divisions he creates in Kremlin power, the easier it will be for him to sweep into office in 2012.