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Nezavisimaya Gazeta: There Will Be No Standoff

This exclusive translation comes from Nezavisimaya Gazeta:

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There will be no standoff In Russia most likely the state structure will change 2008-08-07 / Olga Viktorovna Kryshtanovskaya – doctor of sociological sciences, head of the Center for the study of elites at the Institute of sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Today it is considered good form to assert that we do not have an elite. I will stipulate right from the start: using this term, I am referring to the ruling group in society. It may be good or it may be bad, but it does exist. We – a subdivision of the Institute of sociology of the RAS – have been researching this group since the year 1989 in monitoring mode. The latest changes, associated with the election of a new president of the country, have practically not impacted on either the Federation Council or the State Duma, therefore our latest research was focused on the bureaucracy of the federal level. That is, what was being spoken of was the government and the administration of the president.

Now it has become fashionable to speak about an inevitable standoff between Medvedev and Putin, about two centers of power. But is such a standoff possible? Our research shows that Medvedev has renovated his administration by a mere 16%. That is, the majority of the people with whom he works, on whom he relies – theses are people Putin had brought into power.What can a leader do without reliance on a staff [apparat]? One needs time in order to create one’s own team, in order to gain strength, to take the reins of rule into one’s own hands.It can not be said that Dmitry Medvedev does not have his own team. He does. And it was formed around the year 2005, when he was appointed first vice-premier of the government. His team consists of three parts. The greater part of it – this is jurists, having not-bad positions in higher courts, in other law-enforcement agencies. Others work in the structures of «Gazprom».The third – officials from the apparat of the government and the administration of the president. In the main this is his classmates from Leningrad University, people with whom Medvedev had worked at various stages of his career. But as of today, only ten or so people have high-status positions. Given such a situation, can one speak about Dmitry Medvedev being ready for a showdown with his political “father” Vladimir Putin? I assert that it is naïve and ludicrous to think like that.Medvedev’s team is only just being formed, while Putin’s team is changing its deployment and to a certain degree its composition. The tempos of the establishment of the two teams are not the same: Putin renovated the government by 23%, while Medvedev his administration – only by 16%. Moreover, 25% of Putin’s people have come from the government into the administration [sic], while for Medvedev, on the contrary – 85% from the government into the administration. This says that Medvedev’s personnel resource is extraordinarily limited. For now he can count on a small group of officials with whom he had worked in the government previously. But in the main, he is surrounded by Putinite cadres.Putin has much broader personnel possibilities. He draws in personnel from St. Pete, and from the siloviki structures, and from the regions, and from business. By the way, under Putin the share of outcomers from business structures in the political elite attained an unprecedented high – nearly 40%.Why then, despite the perceptible difference in political weight, do people in our country continue to talk about a standoff between Putin and Medvedev? Well, first, there are forces that want to get them at odds with one another, since they are dissatisfied with the choice of successor. This is not necessarily enemies of Putin (and he, of course, does have enemies, since many were wronged in the years of his rule, many had property taken away, many were kicked out of the country, deprived of status and power). The flames of discord can be fanned by friends as well, who have been pushed aside to the periphery of power. The opposition in Russia – this is not poor pensioners or forgotten plodding workers. The truly dangerous opposition – this is those who have been wronged by the power. This is the formers.In addition to this, there are other reasons as well that force one to think about the riskiness of dual power. Even infants know that Medvedev – is Putin’s successor, the continuer of his work.And now he is tied hand and foot by this “succession”. Any action of Medvedev’s, any words of his can be treated as a mutiny on the ship. He has started to fight corruption? Aha, so that means, it turns out, that Putin is the one who bred this corruption? He has said that state positions are being sold? He has cast a stone in the direction of Putin, who, it turns out, was the one who allowed this disgrace! He speaks out that there is no need to “give business nightmares” [this phrase has usually been translated incorrectly as “terrorize business”—Trans.] It is clear that the president does not agree with the premier in the «Mechel» affair. Can Medvedev in such conditions act actively and not draw suspicions of confrontation with his former boss? No, he can not. He can not do anything! Only swear his allegiance and loyalty day in and day out. But this is absurd!Yes, there are differences in the management approaches of Putin and Medvedev. There is different experience of work, orientation at different groups of the bureaucracy. Here, for example, the president, having formed the administration, has substantially reduced the number of siloviki. At the same time, Putin, having dragged personnel over into the government, has increased this contingent in the White house. That is, Medvedev, despite the fact that he had worked on Putin’s team and is personally acquainted with all the siloviki, apparently, both by the nature of his character and by experience, is far from these circles and orients himself not on them. His strong side – jurists, lawyers, procurators, judges. Therefore also the first reforms begun by him touched upon the law-enforcement sphere. This – is his, it is dear to him, he grasps it, he understands it.For now it is seen that the power and authority between the premier and the president are distributed thus: Medvedev – has the administration of the president, part of the siloviki bloc of the government, the Security council, the command-in-chief and the court system. Putin – has the economic bloc of the government, beefed up by a series of siloviki agencies and the MFA, which have been de facto re-subordinated to the premier, the State Duma and Federation Council, the regional parliaments, the Chamber of Accounts and to some extent the governors – through leadership in «United Russia». Even by formal features, Putin as of today – is a figure more weighty than the young president, who still has to form his base of support, develop his own style of management.What are the prospects for this tandem? I see that two possible scenarios of events may develop. The first is associated with the return of Putin to the presidential chair in three and a half years, and maybe even earlier. The second – the way of a parliamentary republic, under which it is possible, without abandoning the premier’s post, to become person No. 1 in the country. Both the one and the other scenario are completely practicable. But to me, it is the second scenario that seems a little more likely. Why? Well, because Putin has already taken two steps in this direction. First, having headed the ruling party. And second, having re-distributed the power and authority in the government in his favor (although for now this is not yet confirmed legislatively). True, this is not enough. What is also needed is to introduce a minimum of two amendments to the Constitution of the RF: to complicate the procedure of the dismissal of the prime minister and to change the order of appointment. Why has the prime minister been in our country been a technical figure all these past few years? Well, because the president could both appoint and remove him like an ordinary official with one stroke of the pen. For a parliamentary republic is needed the kind of head of the cabinet that is not appointed. The head of the party that has won at parliamentary elections has to automatically become premier. And then we will be able to say – now we have ourselves a parliamentary republic.Such changes could take place quietly and gradually. First «United Russia» will be reformatted, strengthened, filled with new content. Then the Duma will adopt amendments to a series of federal constitutional laws. And then, one fine day, we will wake up and they will announce to us that now we are living in a parliamentary republic. Then the Putin–Medvedev tandem will be able to exist just as cloudlessly long as the Brezhnev–Podgorny tandem (if anybody still remembers our recent history).