Wednesday, September 12, 2007

How to manage a democracy

Ukraine's large neighbour to the north seems to have "managing democracy" down pat:

Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed his long-serving prime minister Wednesday and nominated little-known Cabinet official Victor Zubkov to replace him in a surprise move that could put Zubkov in the running to replace Putin next year. The nomination ... appeared to have caught much of the Russian political elite off-guard. ...

After dismissing Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov - triggering the government's automatic dissolution - Putin explained the shakeup was required to "prepare the country" for forthcoming elections. ...

Putin is wildly popular among Russians, having brought stability and relative prosperity after the often chaotic presidency of his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin. As a result, whoever is nominated for the presidency by Putin is expected to win easily.

Full article here.

At the risk of perpetuating Godwin's law, let's hope we're not watching history repeating itself. While reading this article, I couldn't help thinking that Putin isn't the first dictator who was wildly popular for bringing about economic stability and a sense of national pride.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The fact remains that Stalin's constitution (1936, if my memory doesn't play me false) was recognized as the most democratic fundamental law at the time. I mean the text, of course. We all know what happened afterwards. Russia has been long know for its skill at playing with words. You listen to their politicians: they are promising mountains of gold! However, corruption is uppermost on their minds. It is smth they are born with (reminds me of the British silver spoon in the mouth). I keep in mind Chornomyrdin's "We wanted to do it the best way, but ended up doing it the usual way" (there are various English versions of the phrase, but I think it best reflects the Russian bureacratic mentality. Therefore, whatever the Kremlin leaders have in mind, they will have to reckon with this mentality. Take their current economy: they are earning hard cash in return for oil and gas, but these natural resources are limited. Then what? There is the good old strategy of starting confrontations in order to divert public attention from domestic problems (e.g., Chechnya). It is true that Putin is energetic and resourceful, BUT there is his KGB mentality that simply can't be shrugged off -- it is something you obtain and have until your dying day. In the first place, it manifests itself in great-power chauvinism: Putin is determined to return to Russia the USSR's superpower status. Practically the whole Kremlin leadership is loath to accept the independent status of former Soviet republics, with Ukraine topping the list. Remember when he congratulated Yanukovych SEVERAL times back in 2004, even before the CEC announced the "official" vote results? It was a blunder few if any political leaders could have afforded.
In a word, we have to watch out with Putin and the likes of him.