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Shoigu Set to Govern Moscow Region
Natalya Krainova, Alexandra Odynova - Moscow Times - themoscowtimes.com - 4.2.12 - JRL 2012-60

Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu is all but certain to become the next governor of the Moscow region after United Russia named him among three nominees for the post.

Sergei Shoigu File Photo
file photo
The ruling party also proposed candidates for the Saratov and Omsk regions as the Kremlin hurries to make appointments before legislature resurrecting direct gubernatorial elections comes into effect.

A new study, meanwhile, suggests that about 25 percent of Kremlin-installed governors would not win in direct elections.

Shoigu's rivals for the gubernatorial post are much lower-ranked state officials, including Deputy Governor Igor Parkhomenko and the mayor of the Moscow region town of Reutov, Alexander Khodyrev.

President Dmitry Medvedev has 10 days to appoint one of the trio or choose an alternative for rubber-stamp confirmation by the Moscow region's legislature. Medvedev has never roundly rejected United Russia nominees, and Shoigu's presence on the ticket makes him a shoo-in because anything less would be seen as insulting.

Incumbent Governor Boris Gromov said last month that he would step down after his term ends in May.

Shoigu, who has served as emergency situations minister for more than 20 years, welcomed his nomination Friday.

"The region is big and interesting. I don't think that I would get bored there," said Shoigu, 55, one of the founding fathers of United Russia and co-chair of its higher council, Interfax reported.

Pavel Salin, an analyst with the Center for Current Politics, a Kremlin-connected think tank, said that for Shoigu, the governorship would be "more a change of a place than a challenge."

"He has been a minister for 20 years, and the Cabinet is on the eve of a reshuffle," Salin said by telephone Sunday.

He said Shoigu knows how to resolve domestic issues because his ministry dealt with them repeatedly during emergency operations. "He had only two choices - to go to the Far East or to stay in Moscow, and he chose the second option," Salin said, referring to early speculations that Shoigu might become the head of a state corporation to develop the Far East.

Shoigu is the most popular minister in the Cabinet, with a 70 percent approval rating, according to a national survey by the state-run VTsIOM pollster last year. The survey did not include Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

It was unclear who would replace Shoigu in the Cabinet if he were to govern the Moscow region.

Salin, citing his own information, said Shoigu would be allowed to choose his own successor at the ministry.

All eyes are on gubernatorial elections after President Dmitry Medvedev promised to restore them amid mass protests about falsified results in State Duma and presidential elections. President-elect Putin, who has been vilified by the protesters, abolished the elections in the fall of 2004 over what he described as unfair local elections and the need to reassert Kremlin control over the regions.

Medvedev is expected to sign the new legislation into law before he leaves office next month.

But in a sign of the unpopularity of many Kremlin-appointed governors, about 25 percent of them would be vote