Rumor has it Khakassia head Valentin Konovalov will step down soon and that he will be offered a good position for resigning “of his own free will” to pave the way to his successor, State Duma deputy Sergei Sokol.
Almost three years have passed since Valentin Konovalov, a member of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) became the Head of the republic. As wek.ru wrote earlier, he beat the longtime Khakasia leader Viktor Zimin, quite unexpectedly for many people and, probably, for himself as well. The reasons are clear though. It was a pure and simple protest vote. Konovalov, a 31-year-old lawyer and first secretary of the CPRF's republican committee, who had no experience in public service at the time, was able to best the experienced bureaucrat Zimin. The Kremlin predictably resented the Communist governance of Khakassia and the rumors that Konovalov would not keep his post for long surfaced almost immediately. Moreover, there were enough reasons to dismiss him. It does not matter that they were created by Zimin. For example, a huge state debt of Khakassia which went beyond all the permissible limits allowed by the Tax Code of the Russian Federation or the rundown housing and utilities sector.
The new head of Khakasia sometimes looked like a confused schoolboy but over time he settled into his new job. The management system of the republic has not collapsed, and the budgetary process keeps going on and the salaries are being paid though scandals occur from time to time. However, there has been no breakthrough in the development of the Republic. In fact, the voters have seen over three years that there was no difference for them whether Zimin or Konovalov ran the republic. Observers believe that this is why the presidential administration took action towards his dismissal. Doing so immediately was not safe because it might have caused protests similar to those in the Khabarovsk territory after its then governor Sergei Furgal had been arrested. At present, residents do not care.
“Over the past three years, Konovalov has lost so much political capital that his resignation is unlikely to cause any indignation. Konovalov has already lost the gubernatorial election of 2023. Today, we can justifiably call him a ‘lame duck,’” former Head of the Khakassia branch of the All-Russia People's Front Yevgeny Mamaev told wek.ru.
RBC reports about the imminent resignation of the Head of Khakassia, citing its sources. It might happen already in the winter. Opinion polls say that public support for Konovalov is decreasing. State Duma deputy Sergei Sokol will be proposed as a replacement for Konovalov. He is a well-known politician in Siberia. He entered politics in 2002 at the suggestion of Krasnoyarsk Territory Governor Alexander Khloponin and became his deputy. He then worked as the First Deputy Governor of the Irkutsk Region. He also headed the RT-Chemcomposite and Oboronprom companies. Before the election to the State Duma, he was Ikutsk regional parliament speaker. In a word, he is very experienced and has a great track record. Moreover, Sokol still heads the Irkutsk branch of United Russia. When he decided to run as a Khakassia candidate, many people said at once that he aimed at governorship. Sokol is considered to be a protégé of Rostekh CEO Sergei Chemezov. Perhaps, Sokol as a political heavyweight has interests in Khakassia but they are not obvious to an inexperienced observer yet. Personal motivation might have also played a role there as Sergei Sokol has been on the sidelines for too long. Khakassia is not located in the middle of nowhere. There are large companies, enterprises, and opportunities to show one’s worth.
However, it should be recalled that Sokol was expected to become governor of the Irkutsk region after Sergei Levchenko's resignation in 2020. He was also allegedly promoted by Sergey Chemezov. However, Russian President Vladimir Putin showed for the umpteenth time that predicting his personnel decisions was a futile exercise. Igor Kobzev, who worked for the Russian Ministry for Civil Defence, Emergency Situations and Liquidation of Consequences of Natural Disasters (EMERCOM,) was appointed Governor. From this point of view, insider information about the appointment of Sokol as acting Head of Khakassia rather puts an end to these plans, if anyone has them.
“They persistently try to present Sergei Sokol in this capacity. This information is allegedly a leak from the Kremlin. I have strong doubts about this scenario. History shows that attempts to impose specific decisions on the President are more often than not doomed to failure. On the whole, I would regard this situation as bargaining with the CPRF. The CPRF's position in the State Duma election has noticeably improved, and they can expect to increase their share of the “pie.” I guess that the possibility of Konovalov joining the State Duma is open for now. Such a move seems to be the most acceptable for him. There is not much time left even without his resignation. These two years will fly very fast. There will be even less time for making a decision. The State Duma is an opportunity to move to the federal level and stay on the agenda,” says Mamaev.
“They started resigning me already in November 2018. I’ve long ceased to care about it. I work and carry out the tasks set by the people of my republic and the president. I have a term of office, the results of which will be seen. The inhabitants of the republic will give an assessment,” said Konovalov, commenting on the situation.