Why Does Putin Personally Promote Sobyanin?

August 14, 2013
Владимир Путин и Сергей Собянин. Фото: Глеб Щелкунов / Коммерсантъ

Yesterday, the evening news on all the federal TV channels came out with a message about the development of the transport infrastructure of Moscow and the Moscow region. President Vladimir Putin visited the construction site of the Northern Bypass road in Odintsovo, linking Moscow Beltway and Minsk highway. The head of state was accompanied by Sergei Sobyanin and Andrei Vorobyov, the leading candidates for the posts of the Mayor of Moscow and the Governor of Moscow Region, respectively. After that, the audience was shown a meeting with participation of ministers, members of the government, and the same two candidates.

To viewers who really pay attention, it may look like Putin and Sobyanin don’t even leave each other’s side, not even for a day. On Saturday they were sitting together in the stands Moscow Luzhniki stadium, where the President was opening the World Track and Field Championship.

The week before the President, together with Sobyanin, as well as the heads of the Federal Migration Service and the Interior Ministry, were discussing methods of fighting crime in Moscow after the beating of a police officer at Matveyevsky market. On the same day, Sobyanin discussed with Putin the construction of the high-speed railway line from Moscow to Kazan, and the day before, the candidate for the Mayor of Moscow was invited to a meeting of the Presidium with the State Council to discuss issues related to quality and accessibility of medical care.

In addition, on July 12, Vladimir Putin chaired a meeting of the “Victory” organizing committee, where, together with Sobyanin, they discussed preparations for the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War. On July 5, the President, together with the Acting Mayor of Moscow, took part in the opening ceremony of the monument to a famous Dagestani poet and public figure Rasul Gamzatov in the center of Moscow. On July 3, Sergei Sobyanin participated in a meeting in the Kremlin on development of Moscow airports.

Altogether over the period from July 1 to August 12, the “First Channel” showed Sobyanin on “Vremya”, the main news program, 24 times!

At the same time, other regional leaders, including those who, like Sobyanin, will have to stand for election on September 8, can only envy the Acting Mayor of Moscow. For example, over the same period Andrei Vorobyov had only three chances to meet with Putin. In addition to today’s meeting, he discussed with Putin development of airports and of the high speed rail from Moscow to Kazan. Over this period Vremya showed Vorobyov six times.

Other governors, including acting ones, were even less lucky. Thus, Konstantin Ilkovsky, the Acting Governor for the Trans-Baikal Territory, met with Putin only once, when the President visited Chita. As to Vyacheslav Shport, the Acting Governor of Khabarovsk Territory, Putin bestowed his attention upon him twice, during a meeting on August 8, and while discussing extreme weather conditions in the region on August 10. At the same time, over a month and a half, Putin never met, for example, with Svetlana Orlova, the Acting Governor of the Vladimir region. She was never mentioned in any of the Vremya programs, either.

Why would Putin care for opening monuments and visit the highway construction site together with Sobyanin, whose public recognition , according to sociologists polls, stands at 96%, and who is guaranteed his 55% at the upcoming elections on September 8? It might be just enough to meet once or twice, just like with other candidates, just to show federal support for a particular candidate.

Konstantin Kalachev, the leader of the Political Expert Group, believes that the frequency of meetings between Putin and Sobyanin, shows first of all how important the election campaign in Moscow is for the federal government, and second, it demonstrates the Kremlin’s concern with the election results in the capital.

“Such meetings are meant to show Sobyanin’s political weight, his closeness to the President, while the rest of the governors-candidates were only able to meet with the President once or twice. And the opportunity to resolve issues directly with the president is, of course, an important factor for voters, and this has a certain electoral effect,” said Kalachev. But he believes that such meetings also show that the Kremlin does not want Navalny to get at least 20% of the vote, because if he does, the opposition will have an “electoral locomotive” that can pull through any party in the State Duma and can be considered a presidential candidate. “The fact is that none of the survey results guarantees positive results for a candidate from the ruling party. Moscovites are quite unstable in their sympathies, but the level of antipathy among them is one of the highest in the country. They are not known for fanatical loyalty to the authorities, so even the Kremlin administration has to throw all its weight behind Sobyanin,” said the expert.

Therefore, the more unfavorable information on Sobyanin appears in the media in the near future (such as about his 300 square meters apartment), the more Vladimir Putin will have to personally deal with the problems of the capital and give his personal guarantees to the electorate that everything that his candidate promised will be done.

In the event the rating of Alexei Navalny suddenly goes up, you can expect Putin to take Sobyanin fishing, to bicycle rides through the parks, maybe even events like walking their dogs together and having a cup of tea. Of course the tea will be served by Sobyanin’s wife. So that Navalny can’t say that nobody has ever seen her.