Accessibility links

Breaking News

Analysis: Will Putin's Latest 'Reform' Further Destabilize Russia?

Putin wants greater regional control (file photo) In an interview with RFE/RL's Russian Service on 16 September, independent State Duma Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin's proposal on 13 September to overhaul regional-level elections could work at cross purposes with his desire to strengthen the state in response to the recent wave of terrorism.

Ryzhkov told RFE/RL's Mikhail Sokolov that the president's speech offered little in the way of specific measures to combat terrorism, but was very specific with regard to reforms of Russia's election system. However, these measures appear to have little to do with fighting terrorism.

"How will the appointment of the governor of Tambov Oblast help us to understand [radical Chechen field commander Shamil] Basaev? How does the liquidation of the single-mandate district in Kamchatka Oblast help us to deal with [Chechen President Aslan] Maskhadov. It's absolutely incomprehensible," Ryzhkov said.

Ryzhkov noted that the idea of appointing governors has been floating around the Kremlin for many years before the hostage-taking incident in Beslan, but the president has been able to use the recent tragedy to complete political tasks that he has been working on for many years.
How does the liquidation of the single-mandate district in Kamchatka Oblast help us to deal with [Chechen President Aslan] Maskhadov. It's absolutely incomprehensible."

Ryzhkov asserted that the president is introducing even more weakness and instability into the state structure: "The ranks of the federal government were already demoralized and destabilized because the orders reorganizing it that were issued in March haven't yet been formalized." Now Putin has destabilized the regional elites with a proposal on appointing the governments, essentially making them all 'lame ducks.' They are destabilized and demoralized not for a short while for the next few years as this new initiative is transformed into legislation, approved, and then implemented. Likewise, the corps of mayors is also destabilized because Putin implied that they, too, might soon be appointed rather than elected. Half of the State Duma is demoralized now because their status is now uncertain despite the fact that they were elected," he continued.

"Putin has managed to deprive himself of almost all of his potential allies. Moreover, he is attacking his own people, since almost all the governors already supported him. The single-mandate deputies already supported him. He has disorganized almost all government institutions for the medium short-term, while at the same time he is calling for mobilization and order," Ryzhkov added.

In the most recent issue of "Moskovskie novosti," no. 35, other Russian politicians joined Ryzhkov in criticizing Putin's proposed initiatives. Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin said that he hopes that "the measures that the country's leadership undertakes after Beslan will remain within the framework of democratic freedoms that have become Russia's most valuable achievement over the past decade. We will not give up on the letter of the law and, most importantly, the spirit of the constitution our country voted for in the national referendum in 1993." In the same issue, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev commented: "Our common goal is to do everything possible to make sure that these initiatives, which, in essence, mean a step back from democracy, don't come into force as law," he wrote. "I hope that politicians, voters, and the president himself keep the democratic freedoms that were so hard to obtain."

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

If you are in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine and hold a Russian passport or are a stateless person residing permanently in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine, please note that you could face fines or imprisonment for sharing, liking, commenting on, or saving our content, or for contacting us.

To find out more, click here.