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The Case for Direct Elections

Konstantin Sonin, who also has written some great material on resource nationalism, has a column in the Moscow Times making the case for Russia to reinstate the direct election of regional governors (after Beslan, Putin issued an authoritarian decree allowing the Kremlin to appoint these leaders directly).

Direct elections of governors would not create serious problems for the Kremlin. First, many Russians have raised their living standards not so much by the fruit of their labors, but by the luck of nature since so much of the country’s wealth is from natural resources. A country dependent on natural-resource wealth needs a powerful federal center to administer and control these resources in addition to carrying out its usual government functions. Second, with the Kremlin playing such a prominent role in the economy, there is practically no threat of governors promoting regional protectionism the way they did a decade ago. The integration of the country’s economy is happening for the same reasons so many nations are moving toward globalization. Third, the country’s diverse ethnic and geographic makeup further supports the case for instituting direct elections. Of course, some ethnic regions or republics might require more control from the center than others.