The trendy concept of KPI has already crept into the most conservative industries. The Kremlin decided to keep pace with time and set key performance indicators for vice-governors. However, a scandal erupted immediately: it turned out that Khabarovsk Governor Sergey Furgal has failed one of the critical indicators -- the upkeep of the president’s ranking in the region.
Not all the key criteria have been disclosed. But one of them became public – the regional level of trust in the president. Then a scandal broke out, as the Khabarovsk territory took bottom place as regards the presidential rating.
However, it should come as no surprise. It was there that one year ago, Sergey Furgal, an opposition candidate for Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), won the gubernatorial elections. Many people are of the opinion that this was a protest vote. In other words, Khabarovsk residents were not for Furgal -- they were against Vyacheslav Shport, a representative of United Russia.
Surprisingly, Furgal turned out to be a really smart executive. He managed to gain the Khabarovsk territory residents’ neutral attitude, if not support. The officials of the “power-wielding party” may have expected that the inexperienced governor would quickly destroy his reputation and there would be the “penitence of the people” coming back to their “Father the Tsar”, they have miscalculated. The recent poll on the popularity of federal power in the region showed it explicitly.
In September, during the elections to the local parliament, Khabarovsk residents confirmed their choice again. The LDPR party won 30 out of 36 seats in the Khabarovsk Duma. United Russia got only two seats -- an almost unprecedented case in Russia’s recent history. Another three seats were won by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation representatives and the last one by the Russian United Democratic Party Yabloko.
Aleksey Fedorov, a political analyst and member of the Russian Association of Political Consultants (RAPC), commented on the situation in the exclusive interview with wek.ru.
- How did Furgal achieve a total victory for the LDPR? And why did the United Russia lose?
- Even before the start of election campaign the incumbent governor of the Khabarovsk region said that he would support no political forces. During the campaign, Sergey Furgal met with all the candidates for the State Duma who were campaigning in one way or another, and there was a lot of information about it on their pages in social networks. I do not recall personally the governor's statements supporting any candidates or any particular party in the elections to the territorial Duma or municipal councils.
Unsurprisingly, the candidates nominated by the LDPR, stated in their turn that they were ready for teamwork in the legislative bodies in order to support the governor. After all, it is necessary to solve important tasks for the region.
In addition to that, all summer the governor and candidates from LDPR were
demonized in the media. People saw it and, probably, even perceived it as a threat to the choice they made last year. As a result, on election day, the residents of the Khabarovsk region confirmed the choice they had made a year ago and voted for the governor's team.
- What in your opinion were Sergey Furgal’s major achievements and failures over the past year?
- I think that this year was not easy for Sergey Furgal. At first, after his election, he found himself in an aggressive political environment at a time when it was necessary to build relations with regional elites, the Legislative Duma, the federal center and to form a team. Then the election campaign started, and the information attack on the governor intensified. By the way, returning to the question about the President popularity in the region, I believe that with the established team of deputies, the governor of the Khabarovsk region will be able to implement "presidential decrees" in his region to the fullest extent possible and to improve people’s living standards without "putting a spoke in wheel". I think that if the center provides support for these actions, then we won’t have to talk anymore about a slide of the President’s dropping popularity in this region.
- What will the information attack on Furgal lead to? What is its ultimate goal?
- In autumn, we all observed the consequences of the summer attack reaching absurd lengths when the residents of the region went in heavy rainstorm through the puddles of water to defend their choice and vote for the governor's team. In my opinion, the same thing happens when you ask questions about the governor in social networks – people will protect him. These “revenge-seekers” cannot be stopped with the aid of government-supervised media resources.
- What to expect after the announcement of KPI results?
The experts’ opinions are different. Political analyst Oleg Matveychev notes that this is the wakeup call for the governor and that every effort should be made to improve the performance. Otherwise, the Kremlin will find a way to dismiss an undesirable candidate. No arguments, such as only those who appointed him, in other words the people, are allowed to do it will not help in this situation. Everything will be presented as if it has been done for the benefit of residents of the Khabarovsk region.
Other experts are not so judgmental and do not see any "black spot" in the incident. Political analyst Yevgeny Minchenko believes that governors of the regions where there is a decline of trust in local officials, not in Vladimir Putin, have far more reasons for concern. In his opinion, it is easier to pull up the presidential popularity towards your own, the high one, than to compensate for the fact that your bad results discredit the head of state in the eyes of people.
Ilya Grashchenkov, a political expert, in his turn, believes that the KPI is relevant only for the United Russia party appointees and reflects the interests of the current government but not the regions themselves. Moreover, such artificial indicators could have been designed to cast a shadow over opposition leaders and show their supposed ineffectiveness.
Mikhail Vinogradov, president of the St. Petersburg Politics Foundation, adds that it is better to decide first what is more important: the regions where situation is stable, or the regions where past political conflicts have been competently extinguished. However, he does not specify if the Khabarovsk region can be classified as a second type.
Meanwhile, Sergey Furgal continues to consolidate his position. In particular, he has coped with the consequences of summer floods and fires quite successfully. Also, contrary to expectations, he has quite good relations with the top-ranking officials. He has already established good relations with Yury Trutnev, the deputy Prime Minister of Russia and Presidential Envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District, as well as with Igor Tkachev, the new deputy prosecutor for the Far Eastern Federal District. Therefore, the ill-wishers’ gloomy predictions are not likely to come true.