The institution of direct governor elections was abruptly abolished in 2004 after the tragedy in Beslan. Currently, regional governors are nominated by the President and get approved by regional legislatures.
Whatever the motives of Shaimiev’s statement are (he isn’t known for slips of the tongue), the reaction to it has been lukewarm at best.
Thoughtful and risk-averse Vladimir Pligin, the leader of United Russia‘s "liberals", argued, in a recent interview, that the shift to governor appointment by the President was intended to provide additional "stability" to the federal center. Pligin further asserted that at least one more, and better two, 4-year political cycles are needed to reap the full benefits from the 2004 decision.
Pligin also pointed out that the country has just completed the full "round" of governor appointments and re-appointments. What’s the point of holding 80+ elections right now? Don’t we have "other problems"?, inquired Pligin.
There is one more aspect to the problem that is usually ignored. Of 83 Russia’s regions, only slightly more than 20 are financially self-sufficient, that is, are net donors of budget monies. The rest of the regions ("recipients") are balancing their budgets with infusions — often heavy — of federal funds.
It makes perfect sense to me that the person presiding over distribution of federal monies — as the vast majority of current governors are — stays under federal control. It would however make even more sense to me if governors of financially successful regions — the Krasnoyarsk governor, Alexander Khloponin comes to mind first — were allowed to increase their political clout by assuming the office as a result of a popular vote.
Say, three consecutive years of balanced budget — and your region gets elections back.
Mr. Shaimiev would not mind.