Sobyanin Touted as Kremlin Wild Card
President Vladimir Putin's new chief of staff,
Sergei Sobyanin, was being touted on Tuesday as a wild card
who could help reduce tensions between powerful clans in the
Kremlin -- and potentially get stalled reforms moving again.
But where Sobyanin, the 47-year-old Tyumen
governor, will likely stand in the rivalry between the siloviki
and the liberals within the presidential administration will
become clear only over time, analysts said.
"I think the president wants to defuse
these kind of tensions. ... The striking thing about this appointment
is that he is not from St. Petersburg or Moscow, but a regional
politician. ... I think he is designed to preserve neutrality,"
said Christopher Granville, chief strategist at United Financial
Sobyanin, a native of the Khanty-Mansiisk autonomous
district who was elected Tyumen governor in 2001, is seen as
a competent manager with rather reserved manners and is well
liked in his region, said Alexei Titkov, an analyst at the Institute
for Regional Studies.
Tyumen had been abuzz with speculation that
Sobyanin was well suited for a senior post in Moscow, with some
even tipping him as a potential prosecutor general, Titkov said.
"One can easily come across remarks along
the lines of, 'Our guy is respected in the capital,'" Titkov
said. "He is one of very few regional leaders who really
fits the bill for a top job in the federal government in terms
of education and experience."
"It's too early to say whether he's a
liberal," said Peter Westin, chief economist at MDM Bank.
"Looking at some of the speeches he made as Tyumen governor,
he actually did promote liberal ideas, but the audiences he
spoke to were mainly made up of people from the business community."
Sobyanin has promoted progressive goals such
as the integration of Russia into the global economy, Westin
said. "So at least he has a touch of liberalism in him,"
On the other hand, liberal parties in Tyumen
have criticized Sobyanin over his tough stance toward NGOs and
the media, Titkov said.
This, however, is something he is unlikely
to be criticized for too much in the Kremlin.