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Undoing Medvedev Reform, Putin Proposes Raising Retirement Age For Officials To 70

Analysts say this latest move by Putin is an effort to shore up support among Russia's political elite.
Analysts say this latest move by Putin is an effort to shore up support among Russia's political elite.
MOSCOW -- According to the Kremlin, Russia needs to take measures to "maintain leading, high-quality personnel in the civil service."

That is the official reasoning that accompanied a bill submitted by the administration of President Vladimir Putin that would raise the mandatory retirement age for top bureaucrats from 60 to 70 years.

The move is attracting interest because it would undo a high-profile reform pushed through just two years ago by then-President Dmitry Medvedev as part of a signature effort to "rejuvenate" Russia's political elite.

According to Moscow-based political analyst Yevgeny Minchenko, the move has been determined by Putin's traditionalist management style. He also warns that it could be fraught with danger.

"[Putin] is comfortable working with the people he is used to," Minchenko says. "Putin has a rather conservative leadership style. The Kremlin didn't anticipate such a reaction from the media -- they were thinking it could pass through rather quietly.

"But the situation in which those who came to power with Putin will hold their posts as long as they can and then hand them off to their children has created tension because it leaves no room for the so-called Medvedev generation that is about 35 years old. This will increase the inner dissatisfaction within the elite, which could erupt if there is an escalation of the general political and social tensions [in the country]."

The bill applies to "Category A" government positions, which includes ministers and the heads of federal agencies and their deputies, the presidential envoys to the federal districts and to both houses of the legislature, the heads of presidential-administration divisions, and presidential advisers. Currently, they should retire at age 60, but that can be extended to 65 at the president's discretion.

Crisis Of Legitimacy

Sociologist Olga Kryshtanovskaya, who studies Russian elites at the Russian Academy of Sciences, says that rapid "rejuvenation" reforms under Medvedev -- who lowered the average age of regional governors by 14 years early on in his presidency -- began a process of fragmentation among the elite that Putin is now trying to mend.

Kryshtanovskaya maintains that older, established members of the political elite felt threatened and Putin now -- with the opposition gaining strength in the wake of legislative and presidential elections that have been harshly denounced as falsified -- must shore up his support among them.

"[Putin] faces a dilemma. If he loses the support of the political class, he has nothing to rely on," she says. "The crisis of legitimacy that sprung from the [disputed] elections created a political crisis. Putin is making a clear gesture toward the political class. He is showing that he is their protector."

In Kryshtanovskaya's view, the move to raise the retirement age is an attempt by Putin to "stop the rocking of the boat" in Russia. "If society is rebelling and there is a process of fragmentation within the elite, then a revolution is simply inevitable," she says. "The president has to rely either on the people or on the bureaucracy. And unfortunately, there seems to be little room to satisfy them both."

RFE/RL correspondent Robert Coalson contributed to this report

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