Mikhail Kasyanov will replace Vladimir Putin as Russian prime minister. There's no cause for doubt the Duma will approve the nomination first time around, and the Federation Council will follow suit.
But the main thing is that nothing will change. Putin will remain the sole possessor of executive power in Russia. He won't hold more than one office, but ideologically, he will play the part of both president and prime minister. Power will be presidential in form and will take essence in a prime ministerial republic.
Putin will provide the strategic leadership; his administration will be more or less a personal secretariat but with broader powers, and the prime minister will be the first deputy, responsible for main areas of work finances, industry, agriculture and the defense industry.
Even promoted a rank, Kasyanov will stay his old self. That is to say, chief bureaucrat, the one who carries out all the especially important missions assigned by his employer.
Putin's new management style is not linked with revolution. The Constitution is still being observed, and the transition to a purely presidential or purely prime ministerial republic is covert which could probably be a useful thing from the point of view of efficient state management, especially during the transition to a liberal economy.
The reason for these structural reforms of executive power lies in Putin's main idea to keep control over strategic resources and have rational state spending. The aim is to have a predictable financial market and bring at least 80-90 percent of the economy out of the shadows.
This would explain why Putin decided to give the broadest powers to the Finance Ministry. According to Kremlin information, the ministry has been handed much of the Economy Ministry's functions. The Economy Ministry itself looks set for the chop, with the rest of its functions to be divided between the State Property Ministry and the Trade Ministry.
True, the presidential administration did come up with another scheme, which would have seen an influential Finance Ministry and a new monster of an Industry Ministry incorporating the economy, energy, agriculture, railways and other ministries. This idea was lobbied mostly by representatives of the Alfa financial group, but it never saw the light of day.
Echoes of it are still around, however. In particular, one member of the administration said it was likely the Energy Ministry would be done away with and a special government commission set up instead under the deputy prime minister responsible for energy. The current energy chief, Viktor Kalyuzhny, would be sent into retirement.
If the Energy Ministry does manage to survive, then officials in the administration say there will be a "serious fight" for the minister's job.
But the last thing Putin needs at the moment is a scandal and the accompanying light thrown on connections with this or that post-oligarchic influence group.
Putin, who promised to keep all oligarchs at an equal distance, is now trying to put his principle into practice while forming the Cabinet. Information from the Kremlin suggests it is not going well. Alexei Kudrin, one of the most promising members of Anatoly Chubais' team, has already declined the job of first deputy prime minister for the economy. Most likely, this refusal was motivated by the not-so-favorable way things in the government are shaping up for Chubais' team.
For now, Roman Abramovich and his people are leading. It's known that Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo and Railways Minister Nikolai Aksyonenko, pillars of the Abramovich-Berezovsky clan, will keep their jobs.
Kudrin, it's true, will become at least finance minister, and could combine the job with deputy prime minister. As for Viktor Khristenko, officials from the presidential administration confirm that he will remain a deputy prime minister in charge of fuel and energy. If Chubais can get one of his people into the Energy Ministry as well, that would be a real success.
The structure of the government isn't yet finalized. It was planned that the prime minister would have one first deputy and four plain deputies. But Kremlin plans have changed since Kudrin refused the first deputy's job. This means that Kasyanov will strengthen his own position in the government a bit.
Sources in the presidential administration say the prime minister could end up with a lot more deputies than is now planned. The reason is the political haggling going on with the different groups of influence. And then, Putin also faces the eternal problem of finding appropriate jobs for all the present members of the government.
What's to be done with Valentina Matviyenko, for example? Send her as ambassador to some foreign land or find her a home in the presidential administration? What's to be done with Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu? Make him just a plain old minister again, or keep him as a deputy prime minister? There's a precedent Aksyonenko was demoted from deputy prime minister to just minister.
According to the Kremlin, the reorganization in the executive branch will be complete by May 15-16. But this will only be so long as the oligarchs keep from serious quarreling and don't start going for more spectacular tactics.