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Assessment of Russias Present Political System and the Principles of Its Development

Brief note for the State Council meeting (January 22, 2010)

by Dr.Grigory Yavlinsky, member of YABLOKOs Political Committee


January 22, 2010

by Dr.Grigory Yavlinsky, member of YABLOKOs Political Committee

January 22, 2010

1. General assessment of development of Russias political system since late 1990s and comparative analysis of the present condition of political institutions:

- concise comparative analysis of the present political system in Russia;
- assessment of the evolution and the present situation with the legislative basis for Russias political institutions.

The key trait of the present Russian politics is the authoritarian corrupt bureaucratic system. This political system in contrast to the provisions of the formally existing Constitution lacks a real fully-fledged political discussion, political parties are deprived of an opportunity to normally function, the human rights component has been consistently ousted out of the non-profit sector, division of authorities has become fictitious, courts are not independent and elections have been discredited.

2. Development trends of the political system and political institutions

The present Russias political system is capable of supporting stability of the power for some time at a relatively favourable economic situation and the situation on the world markets, however it solves none Russias strategic problems.

We see the major threat in a conscientious and consistent restriction of possibilities for public discussion, lowering of the cultural and political level, rapid provincialisation of the country coupled with criminalisation of the population and state agencies. A controlled discussion within the frameworks pre-determined by the bureaucrats, with untouchable persons and tabooed topics represents a discourse that is very far from the real life and is, consequently, inefficient. It is unable to implement the key function of a public discussion: generation of ideas and solutions.

Absolute mistrust to the state and its institutions, the governments and the law enforcement by a crucially relevant part of the population represents the most significant trait of the present political system in Russia. The key incentive public trust to the state institutions and the rule of law has been disappearing.

The present high ratings of the heads of the state coupled with extremely low indices of public trust to all without exception state and public institutions demonstrate extreme instability of the present political system and fragility of the so-called political stability.

However, in the real situation a deeply rooted process of deligitimisation of power has been developing inside the society due to the ongoing disruption of trust (and even complete loss of trust as demonstrated by the real turnout at the October elections in 2009) to the institute of elections.

The only prospects for such a system, in case a favourable market situation goes on, lie in stagnation, continuation and deepening of a strategic developmental gap not only between Russia and the world superpowers, but also between Russia and intensively progressing developing countries.

The demographic problem, the problem of the Eastern territories development, creation of a modern infrastructure, to say nothing of modernisation in the broad strategic sense of the word will remain unsolved.

Lagging behind in science and technologies as well as brain drain will be inevitable. It is impossible in the contemporary postindustrial global world to hide the brains behind the iron curtain and make them create innovations. Talented people will go where they may enjoy freedom, as freedom is better than the lack of freedom. And this is a key condition for realization of creative potential of an individual in the modern world.

We can pass the point of no return for development of the political system already in the mid-term perspective, when disintegration and decay (as we witness in the interior) become irreversible, and we shall speak only about the ways and means to slow down these developments then.

In addition, Russias chances to influence the world politics that we have had all this time will fall. This will led to the shrinking of Russias participation in the solution of global problems due to the increase of informal isolation in response to the actual absence and the lack of desire to cultivate a political system based on the common European values, and systematic setting forth of requirements and demands that are absolutely unacceptable to the most of the world powers together with economic and political weakening.

If the state revenues considerably fall, the danger of disintegration - in the infrastructure, socio-economic, regional and economic spheres - will abruptly rise. Russias political system was created keeping in mind an ample inflow of resources. It relies on authoritative power levers (including informal levers) in controlling the situation. However, in the situation of abrupt shrinking of resources accompanied by total criminalization, the Russian political system will be rapidly losing its influence. It will be simply redundant as an arbiter or a regulator. The real control over the situation will go to shadow criminal structures that will co-exist with the bureaucracy in accordance with their shared principle permissiveness in exchange to the lack of problems.

The weakening of the power will be accompanied by intensification of disintegration developments of all types. As regards territories they may first of all affect the Northern Caucasus and the Far East. In the Northern Caucasus disintegration factors have been corruption, underground ideological resistance and underground curruptional resistance, that have been forming up different relation patters between them. In the Far East the leading disintegration factors have been lack of infrastructure and depopulation.

Extreme danger in any variant of developments lies in the degradation of public conscience due to substitution of public discussion on the key problems of the country by their imitation and implementation of media policies targeted at destructing public attention form serious topics and buffoonerisation of the information space.

3. Key directions for further evolution of Russias political system:

raising of the political culture level;
optimization of the election system on the federal and regional levels;
further development of public awareness of political activities in the regions.

Obviously improvement of Russias political system is not reduced to improvements in the organisation of elections only. Introduction of changes into election laws and fight with falsification is not enough to overcome the political stagnation. And the problem lies not only in the technical procedures of voting. It is clear that in the situation of gigantic corruption, absence of the freedom of speech, real public discussion and transparent financing of political activities even ideally organised election turn into a competition between dangerous social populists and become instruments for coming into power, for example, of nazists or fascists.

In the absence of serious attention to the raise of political culture and freedom of speech, elections in our country will become a fest of demagogues and populists killing the system.

The main problems and goals of the society and the state in the field of creation of modern political system and political reform do not represent a mere correction, they mean bringing of life and sense into Russian politics.

Only in this case it will be of interest for the people and will be worthy of their attention. To achieve this we should first of all raise the level of public consciousness and open opportunities for public participation in the power and politics.

We think that to prevent dissolution of the Russian political system in 2010 2012 we need to undertake the following gradual but nonetheless decisive steps:

1. State controlled mass media should see elimination of political and ideological censorship and ban on criticism of top officials, including President and Prime Minister. Governments attempts of administrative influence on mass media and journalists should be regarded as violation of Article 29 of the Constitution of the RF and should be prosecuted under law. Public television should be created within the next two years, it should be open for all points of view and be free of political censorship and state propaganda.

2. The heads of the country should clearly determine Russias strategic perspective as a modern European state based on division of powers, priority of human life and human rights; state decisions giving principled and clear assessment of Stalinism as political arbitrary rule and hypocritical ideology of the Soviet period should be adopted.

3. The rights of non-profit (non-governmental) civil organisations should be completely restored. All the ungrounded and contradicting to international practices bans of the receipt of financial aid should be eliminated.

4. A complex of measures targeted at provision of independence of the court, amendment of judicial errors and revision of unlawful judgments should be implemented. A system of administrative courts with a separate procedure for bureaucratic violations should be introduced.

5. All the law enforcement bodies of the state executive authority, the interior in the first place, should be put under public control.

6. Bureaucrats should be transferred to contract work and state contracts should be concluded with them. All the benefits they get in accordance with their contracts (wages, housing, etc) are should be returned to the state in case of dissolution of the contract due to corruption, arbitrary decision-making or negligence. All this fully and primarily refer to judges, police, public prosecutors and secret services. Responsibility of the workers of the law enforcement should be raised, their departure from the law should be regarded as grave criminal crimes.

7. The possibilities for the executive authority to interfere into parties or elections should be restricted by law.

8. Measures against excess interference of business into politics should be adopted, such as laws on transparency of political parties financing, lobbying in the parliament, ban to the representatives of large business to take state posts. The workers of the legislative, the executive and the judicial authority should be prohibited to take posts in the boards of state-owned companies and companies with a state-owned share, moreover to head such boards.

9. Inviolability of the property right, as well as owners rights, including their political right to openly and transparently finance within the framework of the law political parties and movements should be recognised.

10. Local self-governing should be freed of any excess state control and should obtain minimum financial sources fixed on a permanent basis.

11. A system of truly alternative competitive elections should be introduced on all the levels, election barrier for parties at elections of all levels should be reduced, measures targeted at preventing of the so-called Locomotives (well known persons who are not going to work in the representative bodies) to head party lists should be adopted, a ban for an individual to take office for over two terms should be introduced, the share of bureaucrats in the electoral commissions as well as those who in their post depend on the administration should be reduced. Elections to the Federation Council should be restored.

See also:

the original

Human Rights

Freedom of Speech


YABLOKO Against Corruption

Russian Economy

January 22, 2010