Russia: Authoritarian reality and democratic future
Authoritarian realty and democratic future of Russia
When president Putin came to power, everybody began asking a question: “Who is Mr.Putin?” Six years passed and the given question has become more acute: “What is happening to Russia?” In 2008, according to the Constitution of Russia the time of second term of Putin`s presidency expires. The question “What will happen to Russia” will be one of the most important again.
If it was not clear not long ago who Mr. Putin was, now it is obscure as to what the power under his reign does, and what kind of power we shall have after Putin left.
Putin always assures his loyalty to democratic course. On the other hand the deputy head of the Russia’s presidential administration, Vladislav Surkov speaks about “national peculiarities of democracy in Russia which needs to be saved as sovereignty”.
On the other hand the Kremlin spin doctor Gleb Pavlovsky says that “facing the Orange revolution power has to use violation”.
These have been different answers to the same questions. It is really unclear what is happening to Russia. That’s why it is difficult to decide what actions must be taken.
Is it worth investing in Russia or not?
Are there any guarantees for those who decided to invest?
Is Russia a global player on the world political scene or not?
If it is, whose side is it on?
We still have no answers for these questions.
What is Russia today?
The main tendency in Russia today could be described as post-soviet restoration. That is the most distinguishing feature of Yeltsin`s era. Whereas his government used to exert informal administrative pressure upon democracy, the government of the current incumbent is openly dismantling the institute of democracy.
The power under the Putin`s reign made open demontage of democracy. There was open intrusion of the governing elite in in the key industries of the Russian economy, as we can see it in fuel and gas complex, railway transport and communications.
The elimination of governor’s elections and shortage of the federalism (federal space) could be named. The so-called “power vertical” has build in Russia. The region’s, town’s and municipality’s heads as a rule are the members of the “United Russia” party.
New election legislation has approved which makes any political competition impossible. Political parties must reach the 7- percent threshold during the Parliament elections. Annulment of interparty constituencies must also be mentioned here. The “against all” option scrapped altogether.
The increasing state control of the leading mass-media should be mentioned.
And finally the refusal to reform social policy. The minimum social benefits are being kept in order to provide the lowest subsistence level.
It is the era of post-soviet state capitalism as a whole flourishing under power structures. I would like to call it “instrumental democracy”. This theatrical democracy is only decorating and smoothing traditional soviet society. Consequently we all can witness the political duality or the policy of double standards.
On one hand we have:
- The president’s declaration about the inviolability of the Constitution,
- The formal multi-party system and formal judicial independence,
- Private property and competition as the basis of economy,
- At the same direction in positive developing we have a typical Russia’s personality that was left on its own and left to survive by itself because social policy was simply lost from sight,
- We see the aspiration to become a competitable player not only in WTO, but also in G-8 club. As we know this club is not only for the most developed countries but also for the most democratic ones. If it is not so, why China not on the list?
The other hand we have:
· The elimination of governor’s elections,
· Destruction of political competition,
· Violation of power division principle,
· The manipulation in the media,
· Forcing courts to play the role either as a repressive machine against political opponents or as an instrument for property redistribution,
· Concentration of sources of money in the so-called “grey zone” to support democracy decorating instruments. I mean financing economical control over the mass-media, the ‘United Russia’ party ( “Yedinaya Rossia”), renewed the ‘Party of the Life’ ( “Partiya Zhizni”), other tamed pro-Kremlin parties of different ideologies and colors, and financing artificial public organizations like ‘Ours’ (“Nashi”), ‘Young Russia’ ( “Rossia Molodaya”), ‘Young Guard’ ( “Molodaya Gvardiya”). These parties and organizations were founded for demonstrative imitation of “new” civil society and for hunting for rests of those who belongs to free civil society.
· In foreign affairs we witness the implementation of the idea of the special Russian way. The values of open democratic society have been rejected in favour of pragmatic co-operation. The refusal of strategic rapprochement to NATO and the EU must be mentioned.
· Number of close contacts with totalitarian regimes up to military-technical cooperation.
As a result of such development we have a crisis of management or political inflation. The contradiction between modern democratic person and traditional hierarchic power has appeared and it steadily increasing. To keep expropriated property and power the authorities need to convert a free man into a traditionalist and xenophobe. More and more money is being spent for this purpose. By all means, opaque money. Corruption is consequently increasing; its growing is extremely fast. In INDEM foundation final report we read: in 2001 the volume of corruption market was 33,5 billion dollars, in 2005 – 316 billion dollars. In 2005 the business corruption market exceeds federal budget revenues 2,66 times. This figure implies a four-hold increase of the corruption market measured by revenues of the federal budget. Management solutions are getting worse and more expensive
Independent intelligence isn’t need in this model which is destined to destroy itself. Personal safety of power is very expensive, while power is not effective.
Let me give you just a few examples:
- First of all is the expensive amateur parliament,
- The latest expensive decoration is the Public Chamber,
- Expensive artificial parties like “ The United Russia” (“Edinaya Rossia”), “The Russian Party of Life” (“Partiya Zhizni”),
- Expensive artificial public organization like “Ours” (“Nashi”) and others.
There is enough money so far, but for how long?
Therefore the regime has been restored in Russia where the state means everything and civil society is nothing. Authoritarian system has been established in Russia with its high beurocracy structure of the system. The state is the subject of economy, politics, culture and ideology. The beurocracy has control over interests both of society and business. The civil society is zero.
What fate is assigned for Russia in this state?
In the near future crucial changes are not bound to take place in the country. The main characteristic of the above mentioned political decoration will be determined by 2007-2008 elections. The tendencies to a strengthening regime and increasing of populism are evident.
Let me give a few examples:
- The hardening procedure for parties` re-registration led to elimination of opposite parties,
- The number of party-members has grown from 10 till 50 thousand,
- The State Duma deputy and Republican party of Russia member Vladimir Ryzhkov still has a lot of difficulties with registering his party. By the way, none of opposition parties have yet been registered.
- During last years we witness the power seizure by mergering and absorbing or even total elimination of all political parties which provide politics opposite to Kremlin. Among these parties are The Motherland (“Rodina”), The Russian Party of the Pensioners (“Rossiiskaya Partiya Pensionerov”), The Russian Democratic Party (“Rossiiskaya Demokraticheskaya Partiya”).
- Paranoia fear of gripped the governing elite. Fear is so strong that they are ready to imitate the orange revolution,
- We witness President Putin`s declaration of war to Russian public organizations financed by western money.
- The democrats are declared as “fifth column” and as destructive anti-people forces.
- Last Russian independent TV-company (REN-TV) and mass-media editions (“Izvestiya”, “Vedomosti”, “Kommersant” ) were destroyed when sold to Kremlin-friendly companies were.
- Anti-western propaganda is forming an image of enemy from the United States and Western world.
- The Russian Orthodox Church has joined to this movement with its statement that European system of human rights excepts morals and ethics in human education.
- The continuing expropriation of property is easily seen in Gazprom`s buying of Sibneft and Rosneft`s absorbing of Yuganskneftegas.
- President Putin`s social programs (“national projects”) don’t improve real life of Russian population. This done only for show and determined with 2007-2008 elections, with scenario of Putin successor and other plans.
Under these circumstances three following scenarios for Russia are possible: the first one is a soft successor who contributes to domestic liberalization, the velvet revolution is the second one and the strong protector of the regime is the last one.
The first scenario with a soft successor is quite possible. The main negative factor is the fear of the governing elite to loose their power, property or even their freedom. The positive factor is the necessity of long-term protection and guarantees of their private security and preservation of property. The positive factor is stronger and it bases on the real fear for future while the negative factor is weaker. The bureaucracy is not able to have a strategic view, that`s why the fear of losing everything is very strong and that`s why agressive and repressive regime is not suitable for corrupted elites.
The second scenario is the velvet revolution.
The following factors are positive:
The parts of the elites, military and policy middle-level structures, some governors and oligarchs are feeling disenfranchised about the government’s policies.
Mass property hasn’t changed. The dissatisfaction among people in the country is growing as fast as oil prices, meanwhile the standards of living are not improving.
The following factors for this scenario of velvet revolution are negative:
- The corruption of the all governing elites,
- The repressive machine in the form of the courts is under their control,
- People are not ready to go to the streets because there isn’t any organized opposition in the authorities,
- The stable totalitarian rating of President Putin and high oil prices block out the wild public that could have been untied in defending freedom and democracy.
Therefore this scenario is not possible.
At last all above mentioned proves that the third scenario with the strong protector of the regime has the highest chance of implementation.
I think among the given scenarios the most probable is the most dangerous one. I don’t want to discuss the third term of President Putin purposely, because he had closed this topic himself.
But such an authoritarian system could not keep balancing between West and East for a long time. This system will inevitably move away from the West. That’s why the 2007-2008 elections will become the point of no return. Afterwards the regime could not be changed but only destroyed.
What role can be taken by the West?
To my mind there are only two ways. The first choice is open door politics. Russia is invited to the Western society i.e. EU and NATO. Russia is given freedom of choice in accepting a certain sets of rules.
If Russia refuses to take this line, the issue of the democratic future is just out of the question. In the other case, if Russia give the positive answer, Russia becomes profitable for your investors and worth playing with, but your global competitor as well.
The second choice is the hidden cold war; its main aim is supporting the opponent’s inefficiency that will inevitably destroy itself. Russia is used as a source of cheap natural resources. Degradation of democracy is met with coldness. The inner weakening and country’s dissolution are to be expected.
In my view the western governing elite is gradually taking the second approach. Europe does not want Russia to be developed democracy state because Europe still afraid of global competition with strong Russia. It should be too much better for Europe if Russia was a totalitarian state because in that case Russia will be separated into number of regions very quickly. And after that EU will integrate former Russia in parts. But let me give you a question, dear Ladies and Gentlemen, civilized democrats. Can all of you be sure that Russia nuclear weapons will become worthless before Russia will be separate?