Putin-light, or a presidential compromise
The political protests following the State Duma elections earlier this month have generated an adverse trend for the ruling elite. The storm is unlikely to be weathered this time.
The movement for fair elections is gradually becoming a campaign against Vladimir Putin. The departure of the serving prime minister from the political arena is beginning to be seen not as a possible outcome of elections in the near or distant future but as a good-will gesture by the authorities, as a guarantee of the elections’ transparency.
There is no direct contact between the authorities and the protesters, and a natural result is a demand addressed to the ruling elite to sacrifice its leaders. Attempts to ignore the conflict might make even transparent elections insufficient for the protesters to accept Putin and his new presidential term.
At the same time, for a number of reasons, Putin remains the clear favorite even in the most democratic presidential elections in today’s Russia. He is the only political brand of the ruling elite and an embodiment and symbol of its system. Giving him up may prove a suicidal act.
The December protests have sharpened the contradictions within the ruling elite, the issues that used to be discussed only tentatively. The power block is trying to ignore the demands of the street and planning to tighten the screws if the street does not ease back. The liberal block is aware that street protestors are an intellectual vanguard of society, people whose support or at least partial loyalty is essential for the survival of any regime.
Two blocks are fighting for influence on Putin’s decision-making. The proposals by the siloviki faction can only exacerbate the conflict and the deferred decisions are having a negative effect on the shaky confidence of protesters and liberals in the government.
What can the authorities do in this context? First, they could establish contact with the people. Second, they could come up with a compromise, such as the transformation of the state system. A transformation set out in the Constitution.
Russia is a presidential state. In these circumstances the conflict between the authorities and the protest movement around Putin’s figure could be moved into the plane of discussion on the limitation of presidential powers. A possible scenario could be a move from the presidential to a parliamentary-presidential rule within which the government forms a coalition of deputy groups. Dmitry Medvedev’s announced liberalization of legislation would give an impetus to these changes.
A systemic limitation of powers is one way of giving legitimacy to Putin’s very probable victory in the presidential ballot in the eyes of the creative class. The discontented would get a Putin-light version, which, considering legislative reforms and new political opportunities, could be acceptable.
These changes would not only benefit the ruling elite. Perhaps they could keep the country from suffering the costs of the current authority model, when one elite comes to replace another.
Bedridden opposition leader to be remanded in custody?
After spending the whole of December in detention, Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov will “at best” celebrate the New Year in his hospital bed. Otherwise he will be sent back to the detention center in Simferopolsky Boulevard to complete his 10-day sentence.
On December 27 , a meeting the Tverskoi District Court held to consider Sergei Udaltsov’s appeal lasted a mere four minutes. Judge Sergei Krivoruchko postponed the deliberations until January 7 to enable Udaltsov to be present in person. Udaltsov is currently undergoing a course of treatment for a peptic ulcer at Municipal Clinical Hospital No. 64 following a worsening of the condition caused by his hunger strike against his illegal arrests.
Asked whether Udaltsov might be released from custody to join his wife and two children for New Year celebrations, lawyer Nikolai Polozov said he could only be set free by a court ruling. If he is discharged from hospital on December 29 or on January 5 or 6, the court will meet on the same day – presumably in order to remand him in custody.
According to Polozov, he failed to hand in a written plea to the effect that Udaltsov was not opposed to his case being considered in his absence on Tuesday. This was because the hospital administration had refused to cooperate in issuing the required medical reports, he said.
Udaltsov himself is in no hurry to leave hospital, intending to undergo an extended course of treatment. The problem is that he is being watched round the clock by law enforcers. His lawyers have sent a complaint to Prosecutor General’s Office, insisting that it was abuse of authority.
The Public Chamber has taken the situation under its control, sending an observation commission to the hospital to determine whether Udaltsov is serving his term right now or will do so after being discharged.
Argumenty i fakty
The decline of Europe: Outlook for 2012
The outgoing year was filled with political, cultural and financial disasters. Europe and the United States tottered on the edge of collapse for the first time in their modern history. What awaits the global economy and Russia next year? We offer you the opinion of Mikhail Khazin, a prominent economist and journalist.
Is this the end of Europe?
Many believe that the United States put an end to the European Union on purpose, but I don’t think so. Naturally, various groups on the international stage pursue their own interests, but none of them sought to knock down the euro. Furthermore, no one could do this better than the EU leadership, which has been undermining the euro, if only by refusing to take practical action.
The United States would like to put pressure on the European markets to get liquidity moving from the European to U.S. markets. But it has not acted on that wish, because U.S. banks have great many assets in Europe and hence stand to lose a great deal from mass bankruptcies there.
The current developments in Europe are completely objective and have several root causes, like an economic crisis linked to the impossibility of expanding markets, huge debts, falling demand and, lastly, the EU model based on the accumulation of reserves for dealing with problems among the member countries. The crisis began when these reserves ran out. The inevitable conclusion is that the EU will not survive in its current form. (…)
Outlook for Russia
Many wonder what Russia will do now in this situation. It has no industry and has sold almost all its mineral resources to the West. What does it have left? I think we have a unique advantage that could make Russia a global leader in 10-15 years.
The West is living according to an ideological and socio-political paradigm (financial capitalism, democracy, etc.), which has not changed in 30 years. The current population of the West grew up within that model and hence cannot view it objectively. Since that model has survived a confrontation with communism, which claimed that capitalism is rotten and will eventually fall, some think that it is immortal. This thesis is an inalienable part of the Western paradigm.
But the current crisis puts an end to the capitalist model based on economic growth and technical progress. To be able to create a new model for a future economy, one should look at capitalism objectively. No one in the West can do this, but there are people in Russia who were educated in the Soviet Union and still remember the alternative Soviet paradigm. We can look at the capitalist world objectively and propose a replacement for it. Hence Russia’s key advantage is that it can propose ideological and socio-political innovations. But until we do this, we will continue to fall.
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