Wednesday, November 26, 2014


The Power Vertical

Toward Managed Pluralism?

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (left) with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin before taking part in the Security Council meeting at the presidential residence in Gorki on January 28.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (left) with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin before taking part in the Security Council meeting at the presidential residence in Gorki on January 28.
It's not just about the presidency.

What the upper echelons of the Russian political elite are deciding now is not only whether it will be Dmitry Medvedev or Vladimir Putin who will occupy the Kremlin after 2012 -- but what the contours of the entire political system will be.

In a compelling piece published last week in "Vedomosti," political analyst Dmitry Badovsky argues that Russia is moving away from the highly personalized system of authority that dominated the past decade and toward some form of tightly controlled two-party system.

Badovsky writes that consensus is building in the ruling elite for the continuation of the Putin-Medvedev tandem for the time being and for the institutionalization of shared power in the long term:

This presupposed not the continuation of some personality-based duumvirate or a transition to a parliamentary republic, but the stronger institutionalization of the 'French model' of balanced presidential and governmental power, authority, and responsibility, bolstered by parliament and the system of political parties.

He adds that "the continued retention of power and maintenance of the general outlines of the political regime will require more complex structures than the tandem, the personal approval ratings of leaders, and the dominant party."

Badovsky then goes on to suggest that the Russian system is moving in the direction of some form of managed pluralism:

The ruling class is almost ready to minimize the risks of one person's monopoly on political authority, regardless of that person's name, for the sake of maintaining its influence over the long range, as well as for other reasons.

The main indication that Russian politics is moving in this direction...is the beginning of the establishment of a two-party system for this parliamentary campaign, a system in which power could be regularly turned over from one elite faction (or coalition) to another, but would always remain in the hands of the ruling class. Other parties would also exist in their own niches, but the effective consensus by members of the elite would prevent 'third parties' from taking charge of the government.

The new and more powerful version of a rightwing liberal party and the rebranding of United Russia within the framework of the Popular Front (devised partly to confine the CPRF, LDPR, and Just Russia to narrower electoral niches) seem to be elements of the scenario in question. In the final analysis, the possibility of the transformation of the partners in the current ruling tandem into the leaders of the new two-party model of the political regime, including their competition in the presidential election, cannot be excluded completely.

I agree with Badovsky that Russia is moving in the direction of a more pluralistic system -- albeit a tightly controlled one -- at least on the surface. As I have blogged on numerous occasions, I still believe that Plan A is for some form of the tandem to endure beyond 2012 -- with Medvedev as president and Putin in the role of "national leader." And there are ample signs that the party configuration following December's parliamentary elections will look different and more diverse that it does today.

But I think Putin's role in that system will be larger than a co-equal partner to Medvedev in a Tandem 2.0 arrangement. I expect Putin's role in the future political arrangements to resemble something similar to Iran's supreme leader, Turkey's so-called deep state, or China's Deng Xiaoping after he formally stepped down as China's leader but maintained decisive influence over the political process.

The lessons the Russian elite drew from the chaotic 1990s, I believe, will prevent them from a move to a more pluralistic system --even a tightly controlled one -- without a guarantor, or a "krysha."  

And with his control over the security services, Putin is the only krysha in town.

-- Brian Whitmore

Tags: Putin-Medvedev tandem

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Comments
     
by: Reebhoy from: London
May 23, 2011 21:00
The impression my contacts on the ground in Russia are giving is Putin is finally becoming toxic, the silent majority although not ready to challenge his authority are increasingly seeing him as delusional and bad for the country. Whether Medvedev will have the political courage and instinct to move with this invisible groundswell is another question entirely. The prolongation of The Tandem will eventually entice non cooperation into the open.

by: Joera from: Amsterdam
May 24, 2011 06:56
Brian, you got it!

by: Harley Balzer from: Washington, DC
May 26, 2011 16:16
Nick Gvosdev and I did not try to copyright the term "Managed Pluralism," but we did both write about it before the Khodorkovskii case (see Post-Soviet Affairs, Vol. 19, No. 3.

Have to applaud any description of the Russian political system that avoids using the word "democracy." As I said in my article, the problem is the noun, not the adjective

by: Reeboy from: London
June 03, 2011 18:55
Navalny Warns of Revolt Within 5 Years
http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/navalny-warns-of-revolt-within-5-years/438086.html

The Power Vertical Feed

In this space, I will regularly comment on events in Russia, repost content and tweets I find interesting and informative, and shamelessly promote myself (and others, whose work I like). The traditional Power Vertical Blog remains for larger and more developed items. The Podcast, of course, will continue to appear every Friday. I hope you find the new Power Vertical Feed to be a useful resource and welcome your feedback. More

15:34

SIBERIAN AVIATION FOLLIES

So by now, we've all seen how passengers in Krasnoyarsk had to get out and push their flight out of the snow...

...and we've all seen the snarky Twitter memes this has inspired...

...but have you heard about onboard drunken onboard brawl that grounded a flight in Novosibirsk?

12:41

MIKHAIL ZYGAR OF DOZHD-TV HONORED

12:33

NO MISTRAL, NO FRENCH WINE!

Via The Moscow Times:

A lawmaker on the State Duma's Defense Committee has proposed banning the import of French wines in response to Paris' decision to suspend delivery of the first of two helicopter carriers to Russia.

"Let's ban the sale of French wine in Russia," Deputy Vladimir Bessonov told Russian News Service radio on Tuesday. "Even talking about this can bring about desired results," he said, without specifying what these would be.

France, under pressure from its Western allies to cancel a 1.2 billion euro contract ($1.58 billion) with Russia for Mistral-class warships, said earlier Tuesday that it was suspending delivery of the first of two carriers because of Russia's meddling in eastern Ukraine.

MEANWHILE, IN UKRAINE...

12:20

BAD NEWS AT SBERBANK

12:18

MORNING NEWS ROUNDUP

From RFE/RL's News Desk:

INDEPENDENT JOURNALIST ESCAPES RUSSIA, SEEKS ASYLUM IN U.S.

By RFE/RL's Russian Service

The editor-in-chief of an independent Russian news website says he will seek political asylum in the United States.

Oleg Potapenko told RFE/RL on November 26 that he has arrived in the United States despite efforts by Russian authorities to prevent him from leaving the country.

Potapenko is editor of Amurburg.ru, a news site in the Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk that has reported about the presence of Russian troops in eastern Ukraine.

On November 12, the openly gay Potapenko and his partner were prevented from boarding a flight from Khabarovsk to Hong Kong after border guards said a page was missing from Potapenko's passport.

Potapenko says the page was cut out by a police officer who requested his passport for a check earlier that day.

He told RFE/RL that he had managed to leave Russia from another city, Vladivostok, on November 16.

MERKEL SAYS RUSSIA TRAMPLING ON INTERNATIONAL LAW

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says Russia's actions in Ukraine are a violation of international law and a threat to peace in Europe.

Speaking bluntly in an address to Germany's parliament on November 26, Merkel said, "Nothing justifies the direct or indirect participation of Russia in the fighting in Donetsk and Luhansk."

She told the Bundestag that Russia's actions have "called the peaceful order in Europe into question and are a violation of international law."

But she suggested there was no swift solution, saying, "Our efforts to overcome this crisis will require patience and staying power."

Germany has become increasingly frustrated over Moscow's refusal to heed Western calls to stop supporting pro-Russian separatists who have seized control of large parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces in eastern Ukraine.

Close ties between Russia and Germany have been strained by the Ukraine crisis.

(Based on reporting by Reuters)

UKRAINE SAYS MORE RUSSIAN MILITARY IN EAST

Ukraine has leveled fresh charges that Russia is sending military support to pro-Russian separatists in the east.

A foreign ministry spokesman said five columns of heavy equipment were spotted crossing into Ukrainian territory on November 24.

Evhen Perebyinis told journalists on November 25 that a total of 85 vehicles had been detected in the five columns that entered at the Izvaryne border crossing point from Russia.

"The Russian side is continuing to provide the terrorist organizations of the Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics with heavy armaments," said Perebynisis.

Separately, the Ukrainian military said one soldier had been killed and five others wounded in the past 24 hours as a shaky cease-fire declared on September 5 continued to come under pressure.

The six-month conflict in the east of Ukraine has left more than 4,300 people dead, according to the United Nations.

(Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters)

RUSSIA SAYS IT WON'T ANNEX ABKHAZIA, SOUTH OSSETIA

By RFE/RL

Russia has rejected accusations that it is planning to annex Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told RFE/RL’s Current Time program on November 25: “There can be no question about any annexations.”

Georgia and the West have criticized a "strategic partnership" agreement between Russia and Abkhazia signed on November 24.

Tbilisi condemned the pact as an attempt by Moscow to annex the region.

Karasin also said Russia will “continue sparing no effort, nerves, financial expenses” to make sure its neighbors “do not feel endangered.”

"As a large state and a powerful country, Russia is constantly responsible for stability on its borders and everything that is under way along its borders," he added.

Under the "strategic partnership," Russian and Abkhaz forces in the territory will turn into a joint force led by a Russian commander.

 

19:16 November 21, 2014

POWER VERTICAL PODCAST: A YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY

On this week's Power Vertical Podcast, we use the one-year anniversary of the Euromaidan uprising to look at how it changed both Ukraine and Russia. My guests are Sean Guillory and Alexander Motyl.

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About This Blog

The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It covers emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or