Russian President Vladimir Putin has submitted his candidate for the post of prime minister to the State Duma. Just as the Kremlin sources had promised, the nomination came as a complete surprise to everyone. At least the name of Mikhail Fradkov, 53, had not featured in any of the press, radio and television forecasts made since the dismissal of the government on February 24.
The future premier is not a dark horse in the political community. He was a government member under both Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin. In 1997-1999, he headed the ministry of foreign economic relations and trade, and in 1999-2000 he was minister of trade. Next he held the post of first deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council and was director of the Federal Tax Police Service until its dissolution. Until February 24, 2004 he was Russia's representative at the EU.
Before embarking on his professional career, Mikhail Fradkov graduated from the Moscow Machine-Tool Institute and the Foreign Trade Academy, worked in the Soviet Embassy in India and held leading posts in the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations. He has a wealth of experience in foreign trade. When working in the government in 1993-2000, Fradkov escaped the attention of the public and the press. Journalists did not view him as a symbolic or popular cabinet figure.
When Putin fired the Kasyanov cabinet, he said that by March 14 he would present to the country the premier and the cabinet with whom he would like to carry on reforms in the next four years, if he won re-election. The general public knows extremely little about Mikhail Fradkov, but maybe it is not expected to at this stage? It is enough that the public knows Putin, whose election rating is hovering at 70% two weeks before the elections. This means that the voters will trust the choice of their president who is running for re-election.
What can Fradkov's nomination mean for the country's economic policy? We should not expect any sensations. The main thing is that by virtue of his education and professional experience, Fradkov knows his way around economic problems. He worked for nearly ten years in the governments that worked to create a market in Russia and will, therefore, ensure the continued application of this policy. The president will retain the role of the leader and the "face" of the reforms and set the direction.
Besides, the new premier (Fradkov will be most probably approved by the pro-presidential majority in the Duma) will need his skills of a smart and tough manager. Putin wants to overhaul the structure of the government, reducing the number of ministries and the functions of officials. But, judging by the service list of the candidate, he has the managerial skills to succeed.
One question that bothered experts until February 24 was which premier - civilian or military - the president would choose. Throughout the past year, the president had frequently hinted that Russia should have a parliamentary majority government. The advocates of the "political" theory of the appointment of the premier expected the post to be offered to Boris Gryzlov, leader of United Russia and chairman of the State Duma. The president did not justify their expectations. We will have to see who will be appointed to the new cabinet, but so far Fradkov looks like a technical premier, meaning a skilled professional who can work precisely and fulfil tasks methodically.
The markets reacted to the news of his nomination with a slight fall, which means that the name of Fradkov has only aggravated uncertainty in Russian politics. Now the markets will wait for the appointment of key cabinet members: the vice-premier responsible for the economy and the finance and economics ministers. Politicians in the State Duma welcomed the nomination of Fradkov. Boris Gryzlov said the new premier is a top professional, an economist and lawyer and a seasoned fighter against corruption.