Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin will stand for re-election in September 2018. He has governed the country’s richest city since 2010 and is a close ally of President Putin. Today’s analysis unravels the gatekeeper to the wealth of the Russian capital, a man who is also rumoured to have higher political ambitions.
With international focus on the World Cup, the Russian government announced a series of unpopular reforms, including an increase in retirement age. If the government intended to use World Cup euphoria to distract people from these proposed changes, Moscow deeply underestimated the social sensitivity of the issue and the mobilising capacity of social reforms. Shadow Governance Intel discusses the implications of the reforms and what the reactions tell us about the underlying political dynamics in the country.
If approved, the new legal amendments proposed by Russia’s Ministry of Economic Development would allow companies not to disclose corporate information, including ownership structures. This government’s latest attempt to protect strategically important companies, and loyal individuals, from international sanctions may seriously affect the rights of minority shareholders and the overall transparency of business.
Cooperation over Islamic finance is perhaps the only area in which the Central Asian republics are free from Russian influence. The new cash flows promised by Islamic banking could prove crucial in helping the region weather the spill-over from Russia’s economic woes. With experiments in Islamic banking tightly controlled by the state, and the weak institutionalization of Islamic finance partially attributable to the lack of clearly defined rules concerning its conduct, much needs doing to truly integrate Islamic banking.
The much-anticipated return of Alexei Kudrin to the cabinet of ministers did not materialise. Instead of a role that would allow him to take part in implementing Russia’s long-term economic development plan he helped design, Kudrin was appointed head of a public finance watchdog. Yet, investors hopeful for reforms should not be discouraged as Kudrin’s new role will largely depend on how he interprets it.
The return of Bidzina Ivanishvili to politics as the official leader of the Georgian Dream Coalition provides another example of unfolding uncertainty in the Caucasian country. As with the governments preceding it, the GD are teetering on the verge of de facto collapse – exacerbated by its failure to deliver on its most basic promise: improved economic performance. Unfortunately, there is little to suggest that once promising Georgia will embark on the gamut of reforms needed to truly make it a transparent democracy, and a welcome environment for foreign investors.
Plans for the creation of an Islamic finance infrastructure represent the latest expression of commitment by the Mirziyoyev administration to reform Uzbekistan’s notoriously opaque banking sector. Nevertheless, Islamic banking in the country remains vulnerable to co-option by national elites.
The arrest of one of Russia’s wealthiest tycoons, Ziyavudin Magomedov, and his brother Magomed, is one of the biggest scandals to hit Russia’s business community. Not only does this case provide another example of Russian power plays, used to secure political power and control over resource distribution, but it is also likely to affect the dynamics within one of Russia’s most lucrative sectors – infrastructure construction.
Belonging to an elite network can be a double-edged sword, as the experience of Igor Shuvalov, Russia’s outgoing first Vice-Prime Minister, attests. The partnerships that he forged through a Moscow law firm have been the source of both strength and vulnerability.
Putin’s inauguration marked the start of government reshuffles in Russia. The most significant change happened to the Deputy Prime Ministers; five have been replaced. Shadow Governance Intel looks at who is in and who is out of the new government and explains what the new appointments reveal about the power balance within Russia’s elite groups.
Oleg Deripaska and Viktor Vekselberg are the main victims of the new round of U.S. sanctions imposed last month. The two long-time commercial rivals and known Kremlin’s loyalists have found themselves in the same boat; relying on their ties to elite networks for the survival of their business empires. Shadow Governance Intel analyses what political and societal networks Deripaska and Vekselberg can look to, to stay afloat amid the new round of U.S. sanctions, explaining why their stories are important to monitor.
Russia’s top echelons of elite – political and commercial – secure their position based on their ability to navigate layers of patronage. The ultimate patronage being that which emanates from the President himself. The profiles of those in Putin’s innermost circle, in some cases named through the latest round of Russian sanctions, highlight just how important patronage remains for financial survival, particularly in a sanction-heavy