Meet Mikhail Mishustin, Russia's new prime minister designate

Parliament to review Putin PM pick after shock overhaul

Russian Prime Minister Nominee, Mikhail Mishustin

Russian President Vladimir Putin has named Federal Tax Service chief Mikhail Mishustin as Russia's new prime minister

Mikhail Vladimirovich Mishustin is a Russian economist and politician who has served as Head of the Federal Tax Service since 2010. On 15 January 2020, he was nominated for Prime Minister of Russia by President Vladimir Putin. 

Hearings on his appointment will be held in the State Duma on 16. Mishustin managed to stay out of the spotlight as Federal Tax Service boss, yet his high-profile colleagues now describe the PM candidate as not just a true professional, but a colorful personality to boot.

The candidate already held hour-long talks with top MPs at the State Duma, after which speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said that Mishustin was well-known to lawmakers.

“He’s a man who has made a reputation for himself by creating a high-tech Federal Tax Service from scratch with the use of state-of-the-art technologies, the digital economy,” Volodin pointed out.

“He also knows modern technologies better than anyone else,” said Russian hockey-legend-turned-politician Vyachslav Fetisov, praising the PM candidate as “very responsible and systematic, which is very important nowadays.”

Born in Moscow, Mishustin worked in the computer and IT sector throughout the 90s and joined the tax service near the end of the decade, when he began his career as a civil servant. Holding a doctorate in economics, he oversaw the opening of the first special economic zones in Russia and in the early 2000s was put in charge of the Federal Real Estate Cadaster Agency. In 2008 he left the civil service to work for an investment company, only to return to head the tax service two years later. Forbes estimates that Mishustin earned some 78 million rubles, or over $2 million dollars, in 2009.

Besides his expertise in technology, business and government operations, Mishustin seems to have a number of other creative interests and hobbies. He composes music and plays the piano, and is said to be a decent hockey player, according to Fetisov. With all the challenges ahead, however, it’s unclear if he’ll find time to practice.

Russia's parliament will begin reviewing Putin's nomination Mishustin as the country's new prime minister on Thursday after his announcement of a sweeping constitutional shake-up fuelled speculation he plans to extend his hold on power.

The lower house of parliament, or State Duma, which is overwhelmingly loyal to the Kremlin, is likely to approve Mikhail Mishustin for the role, after the shock resignation of the government in the wake of Putin's call for reforms that would reshape Russia's political system.

The announcements made during and after the president's state of the nation speech triggered speculation about Putin's role past 2024, when his current - fourth - presidential term expires.

The proposals would be the first significant change to the country's constitution since it was adopted in 1993 and include a referendum on amending the constitution to increase the powers of parliament while maintaining a strong presidential system.

"I consider it necessary to conduct a vote by the country's citizens on an entire package of proposed amendments to the country's constitution," Putin said, without specifying a date for a referendum.

Under the changes, legislators would name prime ministers and cabinet members, decisions currently made by the president.

Putin and Mikhail Mishustin
Parliament to review appointment

"It will increase the role of parliament and parliamentary parties, powers and independence of the prime minister and all cabinet members," Putin said.

Some suggested 67-year-old Putin, who has steered the country since 1999, could be laying the groundwork to assume a new post or remain in a powerful behind-the-scenes role.

It is also unclear whether Mishustin, a relatively obscure technocrat whose recent career revolved around Russia's tax service, is a temporary figure or could be groomed as Putin's successor.

The State Duma said on its website that Mishustin will hold "consultations" with the four parties represented in parliament prior to the plenary session starting at 10am (07:00 GMT), during which his candidacy will be formally reviewed.

Outlining his plans, Putin noted the "demand for change" among Russians who have seen their incomes stagnate or decrease for five years, while a key reform hiking the pension age has led to anger and a fall in Putin's ratings.
Putin and Mikhail Mishustin
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced the resignation of his government soon after Putin's speech, saying the constitutional proposals would mean significant changes to the country's balance of power.

He remains acting prime minister until a new head of government takes the reins.

Powerful presidency

Medvedev - who also served as Russia's president for four years from 2008 - is expected to stay close to the Russian leader as deputy head of the country's Security Council, which Putin chairs.

"He remains what he's always been: (Putin's) alter ego," tweeted head of Carnegie Moscow Centre Dmitry Trenin, suggesting Medvedev could be being groomed as the next president.

He has been Russia's prime minister for eight years.

"This is to show that Putin trusts Medvedev, who has been at his side for many years now," said Aleksandra Godfroid, a journalist in Moscow. "These changes do indicate a change in power structures, but at the same time, they do keep the president very strong."

Putin also said he wanted to tighten the criteria for anyone wanting to become president - anyone wishing to become president must have lived in Russia for the past 25 years.

Russia's opposition said Putin's proposals indicated his desire to hang onto power.

"To remain the sole leader for life, who took over the whole country as his property... is the only goal for Putin," tweeted opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

If 53-year-old Mishustin is appointed, he will have a week to propose a new government and ministers.

The former head of an investment group and trained as an engineer, he has a PhD in economics and has led the tax service since 2010.

He also shares Putin's love for hockey and has been seen at matches with security services officials, according to reports.

Putin and Mikhail Mishustin
Former opposition lawmaker Gennadiy Gudkov called Mishustin "a new faceless functionary without ambition" who embodies a system that is "detrimental for the economy".

Putin is required under the constitution to step down when his current term ends; he will be 71.

"The proposed changes to the constitution imply the government will actually be appointed by the Russian parliament, which is not how it is now, but at the same time, the president will retain the power to fire the government if he is not satisfied with their performance," said Godfroid.

"The president will also keep control of the army, police and security, and will be appointing the heads of those services," Godfroid added.

Russia last conducted a referendum in 1993 when it adopted the current constitution under Putin's predecessor, Boris Yeltsin.


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