Monday, March 03, 2008

Russian Democracy: In Name Only...?

Well, the Russian presidential election, such as it is, has been decided, and Dmitry Medvedev (whose name my spell-check just loves) won by what appears to be a better than 70-30 split. It just so happens that Medvedev is Vladimir Putin's hand-chosen successor, and that he has publicly stated that he would appoint Putin Prime Minister if elected. This was pretty much the way it was expected to go down - polls in Russia place Putin just below "sliced bread" on the list of things people like the most - but Russia has egregious problems with candidate registration and media access that call the whole thing into question.

Add into that the strange drawing down of Gorbachev/Yeltsin-era social reforms on Putin's part and it's hard not to be concerned here. Bluntly put, the autocratic, vaguely anti-democracy Putin has managed to extend his political tenure long past his presidential term limit by way of, for all intents and purposes, appointing a new president who had guaranteed him a high level place in the government. It's a concerning situation.

On issues from Chechnya to Kosovo, the Russians have been doing little to inspire confidence in the last few years, and the election today may just be another sign that the country is backsliding into Soviet-era pseudo-democracy once again.


Jay said...

Interesting development. Do you have any sense of how many of the currently high-ranking officials in Russia have close ties to the pre-Gorbachev era?

Skippy the Skeptic said...

Well, a lot of the pre-Gorbachev guys were in the government from the very beginning so many of them have died off. There's a weird combination of obvious toadies and legitimately elected officials in the Russian government. For example:

The current Prime Minister, appointed by Putin, is Viktor Zubkov, a former military man and party official who has been involved in the operations of the government since the 1960s, during which time he was the manager of a collective farm. He worked directly under Putin as Chairman of the External Relations Committee of the St. Petersburg Mayor's Office. His deputy as Prime Minister was none other than Dmitry Medvedev. (To all appearances Putin stacked the Prime Minister's office with functional lapdogs who he could count to remain loyal to him.)

On the other hand, the current Chairmen of the Federation Council of Russia is Sergey Mironov, another former military man who worked as an entrepreneur throughout the Soviet era and didn't enter politics until 2 years after the USSR dissolved. Mironov even keeps a blog: