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Vyacheslav Volodin

Vyacheslav Volodin, who won Kremlin support to become the speaker of the State Duma, emerged in 2016 as a potential successor to Vladimir Putin in 2018. Although it is widely assumed that Putin will run for another term, he has not yet given a definite answer as to whether or not he will take part in the vote, and the recent political shakeup within the government could suggest that the search for a successor is underway. In a recent interview with Bloomberg, Putin described Volodin as “young but mature.” Anton Vaino, who recently replaced Sergei Ivanov as the head of the Presidential Administration, had also been mentioned as a potential candidate.

Vyacheslav Volodin was born on February 4, 1964 in Alekseevka, Khvalynsky District, Saratov Oblast. In 1986 Volodin was graduated in mechanical engineering from the Faculty of organization and technology of the Saratov Institute of Mechanization of Agriculture, 1995 followed by a degree in law from the Russian State Service Academy under the President of the Russian Federation and a PhD law from the Interior Ministry's St. Petersburg Institute in 1996. In 1996 he was appointed to the Vice Governor of the Saratov region. He has been deputy in the State Duma from 1999 until 2010. He was the Deputy Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation from 2010 to 2012. Since December 2011 Volodin is the first deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Administration of Russia.

At its first meeting on 05 October 2016, Russia's newly elected State Duma voted Vyacheslav Volodin as its speaker. A total of 404 out of 449 lawmakers backed Volodin, while 40 deputies supported his rival, Dmitry Novikov of the Communist Party of Russia. Before his election as Duma speaker, Volodin had served as the first deputy chief of staff of the Presidential Administration in charge of the nation’s domestic policy. In short, he was the “regime’s architect,” according to the analytical website Russia Direct.

The reasons behind Volodin’s selection as speaker of the State Duma were not clear. Observers have speculated that the Kremlin wants to demonstrate that the Duma is working as a governmental body in its own right ahead of presidential elections in 2018 — and part of this speculation involves Volodin’s future. Volodin’s qualifications for the role are well known, but if he aspires to become the next president of Russia, he will need to use his position in the Duma to show that he can capture the hearts and minds of the voters and the media.

Yet historically, the position of first vice chief of the Kremlin’s staff, overseeing home affairs such as elections, debates in the parliament, NGOs and political institutions, has been arguably even more powerful. Volodin himself was dubbed as Putin's 'gray cardinal' while in the role. Volodin coordinated state ideology, managed elections, lobbied for specific pieces of legislation and “cleaned up” Russia after the Bolotnaya protests in Moscow in 2011-2012, which erupted after allegations of vote-rigging in the December 2011 State Duma elections.

Rumors about Volodin’s move to the Duma had been circulating for some time, and they escalated when Putin appointed previous State Duma speaker Sergei Naryshkin as the head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service. Experts expected Volodin to be much more of a visible, hands-on presence within the Duma than his predecessors. Boris Gryzlov, Duma speaker from December 2003-December 2011, famously said “the Duma is not a place for discussions,” and during Naryshkin’s tenure, the body was given the nickname “the Mad Printer” because of the speed at which it passed restrictive laws backed by the Kremlin.

Volodin is used to being a role where he could act decisively and firmly, traits that he might bring to bear on the Duma’s operations. “Undoubtedly, Volodin will be a more heavy-handed speaker in the Duma than his predecessors,” said Evgeny Minchenko, director of the International Institute for Political Expertise.

Volodin is far from an unknown quantity. He has served in all branches of the government, beginning in 1991, when he was elected to the Saratov city Duma; he later became its deputy chair. In 1996, Volodin became deputy governor of the Saratov region and three years later, he became a member of the State Duma and the leader of the parliamentary group “Fatherland – All Russia,” one of the parties that later combined to form United Russia. Volodin was reelected to the Duma in 2003 and 2007.

He joined the administration in 2010 as a deputy prime minister and chief of staff of the government (the branch under the control of the Prime Minister, not to be confused with the presidential administration). The next year, however, he moved to the presidential administration, replacing first deputy chief of staff Vladislav Surkov.

Under Volodin’s supervision, , the country started to search for an external enemy, just as it was during the Soviet era. The term “fifth column” – which describes some sort of internal enemies – is being constantly used in the country’s mass media. The new law, which obliges non-commercial organizations receiving funds from abroad to mark themselves as foreign agents and pay additional tax, was introduced. Finally, the number of Russian Orthodox activists in the state apparatus increased, and the policy rhetoric from the government now talks about “traditional values” and “spiritual bonds.” Also, the number of national-patriotic entities such as the Cossacks, national-liberation movements and patriotic activists increased.

Putin noted Volodin’s experience in the Duma in his announcement of the candidacy. “Prime Minister [Dmitry] Medvedev and I will ask [United Russia] to support the candidacy of Vyacheslav Volodin," said Putin, addressing representatives of the parties seated in the Duma. "He knows what parliamentary work is; he was a deputy himself for a long time, and while in the Presidential Executive Office, he maintained direct contacts with the deputy corps, the factional leaders and with the parties. This was part of his professional duties. I hope all of this will help him to manage the work in the lower house of parliament."

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Page last modified: 13-11-2016 18:56:41 ZULU