Vladimir Frolov of Russia Profile is not one known to be very critical of Russian government policies, but even among the most restrained and measured observers of the Kremlin there appears to be a gathering consensus over the lack of grounding for the fast tracked extension of presidential terms:
But like everyone else, I look at the circumstances of the deal and they seem rather fishy. Consider the following. The initiative is totally out of sync with the pressing political agenda of the day. The transition of power has been accomplished flawlessly. The country is stable and public trust in Medvedev and Putin remains high. The regime is secure and can focus on the country’s modernization.
However, the global financial meltdown has affected Russia by dumping the prices of oil, metal and other commodities on which Russia’s export earnings, budget revenues, and currency reserves depend. The rapid and deep credit contraction is threatening to bankrupt entire Russian industries. The Russian financial markets have been wiped out in two months, and capital is scarce.
People are beginning to fear for their jobs and savings, and the ruble exchange rate looks increasingly dicey, with the price of oil below 50 dollars a barrel. This is what is on people’s minds today, not whether their president or the Duma have enough time in office to accomplish their political agenda. There was nothing in the air that suggested an urgent need for constitutional amendments.
This is clearly stating the obvious, but Frolov goes on to explain that the war in Georgia and the financial crisis are serving as pretexts, just like the hostage tragedy at Beslan, for the executive to expand its powers even further. It’s notable to see traditional government supporters prepare to jump ship before what may be approaching fundamental illegality and lawless mandate, but let’s try our best not to seem so surprised or caught off guard next time about the direction this government is taking.