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Kremlin meeting 'tentative resistance' from regional elites says expert

Moscow, 24 March: Criticism of the federal centre's regional policy by the leader of Bashkortostan is an example of tentative resistance on the part of regional elites to attempts to establish the rule of law in the division of authority in power structures of all levels, according to the general director of the Agency for Political and Economic Communications, Dmitriy Orlov.

"Going back to the rule of law and to the procedures stipulated by legislation is not an easy process and this process is meeting resistance from regional elites. I believe that (Bashkortostan President Murtaza) Rakhimov, despite his oriental cunning and prudence, in this case is demonstrating this resistance to the establishment of the rule of law in relations between the centre and the regions," Orlov told Interfax on Tuesday (24 March).

Addressing a Russia-wide scientific-practical conference, "Ethnic state entity in the history and political practice of Russian federalism", in Ufa last Friday (20 March), Rakhimov expressed the view that in practice the federal centre does not take into account the powers of the federal (as received; ?regional) authorities.

"In recent years central ministries and departments have taken little notice of the prerogatives of the constituent parts of the federation and, contrary to the main law (constitution), regard them in fact as areas of their competence and responsibility. The personnel numbers of federal structures on the ground are too big and there is a lot of unnecessary duplication and mistrust," the Bashkortostan president said in his speech at the conference. The text of his speech was posted on the official information website of the Republic of Bashkortostan (www.bashkortostan.ru).

"This is a restrained and very tentative demonstration by Rakhimov of his displeasure with the policy of strengthening the influence of the federal centre which has been pursued of late. As one knows, Rakhimov is one of the political elders who belongs to the first generation of governors," Orlov said.

According to the political expert, in the past decade the federal centre has been sharply limiting the "pseudo-sovereignty of big and economically important regions which the latter tried to acquire in the 1990s". "To some extent this applies to Bashkortostan too," Orlov said.

As for Rakhimov's criticism of federal officials on the ground, according to the political expert, the aim here is to strengthen the position of regional elites.

"I don't think Rakhimov's criticism is directed at improving the effectiveness of federal officials' performance on the ground. It is an attempt to limit their opportunities in favour of the regional authorities," Orlov said.