Moscow - Mikhail Mishustin, President
Vladimir Putin's surprise choice to become Russia's prime
minister, is a tax chief with almost no political profile who
analysts say could be a "technocratic placeholder."
The Kremlin-dominated lower house of parliament, which
rarely opposes Putin on important issues, is due to decide
whether to approve Mishustin on Thursday.
Mishustin, 53, has been the head of the Federal Tax Service
since 2010 and has worked in government roles related to tax
collection since the early days of his career.
He has won praise for improving tax collection processes and
more than doubling tax revenues in the past decade, with 20.4
trillion roubles ($331.92 billion) collected in the first 11
months of last year.
The majority of those revenues still come from taxes on the
vast energy sector but an increasing share now comes from other
forms of taxation after an efficiency drive.
Despite these successes, Mishustin's name had not appeared
in many lists of potential candidates for the post.
"Mishustin does not have any political experience or
popularity with the electorate, and is not part of Putin's inner
circle," Tatiana Stanovaya, Nonresident Scholar at the Carnegie
Moscow Center, wrote on social media.
She said Mishustin would be unlikely to run in the
presidential election due when Putin's fourth term ends in 2024,
adding: "(It) seems highly likely that Mishustin is just a
Russia has had technocrats as prime minister before,
including when Putin was cementing his grip on power after 2000.
"(Mishustin) looks a lot like the technocratic premiers...
of the early 2000s," Stanovaya said.
Russian Tax Service chief Mikhail Mishustin listens to Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow. Picture: Alexei Nikolsky/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP
ICE HOCKEY AND ENGINEERING
Dmitry Medvedev, a Putin ally, stepped down as prime
minister on Wednesday, making way for constitutional changes
which would give Putin scope to extend his hold on power after
leaving the presidency. Putin also suggested diminishing the
powers of the presidency and beefing up those of the prime
Like Putin, Mishustin enjoys ice hockey and is on the boards
of CSKA Moscow ice hockey club and the Russian Ice Hockey
An engineer by training, Mishustin joined the government tax
service in 1998 and spent five years as a deputy tax minister
from 1999 to 2004.
Market participants credit a background in the tech sector
for his success in bringing taxation in Russia into the digital
age. Payments for both individuals and businesses have become
simpler and a predominantly online process.
Digitalisation has also led to a drop in tax evasion and a
reduced role for the shadow economy, with many small and medium
enterprises beginning to pay taxes.
Mishustin told Vedomosti newspaper in 2018 he did not see ka
return to the private sector.
"But if destiny chooses a different path for me, I would
work in innovations, with new technologies, in the same field as
I have always worked: transformation, related to the digital
economy," he said.