CHICAGO, November 7 (RIA Novosti), Elizabeth Wojt — Russian President Vladimir Putin may appear to be more powerful than US President Barack Obama because of the differing levels of restrictions stipulated by the two countries' institutions of governance, political science experts told RIA Novosti Friday.
"Both President Putin and President Obama are immensely powerful because they are the leaders of the two most powerful countries in the world. President Putin has a greater ability to act unilaterally than President Obama so does that make him more powerful? Who knows," Joshua D. Clinton, associate professor of political science at Vanderbilt University said.
"The biggest difference lies in the institutions of governance. There are more checks and balances in the United States than in Russia and that places more limits on what President Obama is able to do relative to President Putin," Clinton added.
Forbes named President Putin this year's most powerful person for the second year running with President Obama ranked second. The annual ranking released on Wednesday is based on votes from a panel of the journal's editors, who consider parameters like the person's scope and use of power, the number of people impacted by the person in question and financial resources. However, the countries both presidents lead operate quite differently, which may influence who is technically more powerful, according to experts.
"Putin certainly is more powerful than Obama, but that is because of the absence of serious checks and balances on his power in the Russian system of government. Obama must govern constitutionally, and this restricts his power. He may not always like it, but it is the essence of the American system," Thomas Schwartz, a Vanderbilt professor of history and political science, told RIA Novosti.
"Obama must operate with more persuasion than Putin, and although he can issue executive orders, Congress still controls the funding and can check his power if he tries to do too many things without their consent," Schwartz added.
Clinton agreed with this point adding that President Obama's requirement to negotiate with an opposition party in Congress makes it more difficult for the US president to take dramatic actions like Putin.
In 2012, Putin was in third place on the Forbes list, while Obama took first place that year. The Russian leader was also named Person of the Year by Time magazine in 2007, and The Times International Person of the Year in 2013.