Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Separation of the powerful?

If Philip Pan's analysis in The Washington Post is accurate, these developments are more than political, they are constitutional.

Stepping Out From Putin's Shadow

"With a series of careful moves and subtle statements, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has begun to shed his image as the obedient sidekick of his powerful predecessor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, fueling speculation that their partnership could be strained by the nation's worsening economic crisis.

"Putin remains the dominant figure, and there has been no sign of serious differences between the two men. But Medvedev's efforts to establish an independent profile have injected a new element of uncertainty at the top of the authoritarian system built by Putin at a time when it is being tested for the first time by a severe recession...

"An adviser to Medvedev, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, said that the president is loyal to Putin and that the two leaders continue to work closely together. But he added that rival teams around them have clashed on various issues, including economic policy. Medvedev's influence remains limited, the adviser acknowledged, but it is growing as he finds ways to assert himself without offending Putin and the old guard...

"Confusion at the highest levels of the Kremlin may be a factor in the mixed signals that Moscow has been sending about its desire for improved relations with the United States. Both Putin and Medvedev have expressed optimism about the Obama administration, but Russian pressure appears to have been behind Kyrgyzstan's move last week to close a key U.S. air base..."

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At 4:50 PM, Blogger G said...

I read this WashPost article with interest last week end. Curious as to what people/AP Comp experts think. Are Medvedev and Putin working together on this to give Medvedev an appearance of independence to counter OpEd pieces and articles making Medvedev the loyal servant? Could Medvedev be seriously challenging Putin's dominance in the face of economic troubles and criticism of Putin? The article says that Medvedev is forming a political party, Right Cause. Is this a "real" party based on Medvedev's persona designed to break with Putin or is it more smoke and mirrors with political parties to support Putin and attack his critics?

At 5:09 PM, Blogger Ken Wedding said...

Here's the November announcement of the formation of Right Cause.

New Kremlin-backed party to be formed in Russia

MOSCOW, November 14 (RIA Novosti) - Three minor Russian political parties are planning to dissolve on Saturday and form a Kremlin-backed pro-business party.

The new party, likely to be called Pravoye Delo or Right Cause, will hold its inaugural congress on November 16.

The party is to be based on the Union of Right Forces (SPS) party, along with the Democratic Party and Civil Force parties, which are also broadly supportive of the Kremlin.

Its name, charter, emblem and program are expected to be approved by the organizing committee on Sunday.

The organizers of the new party said in statement that its principles were "democracy, the free market, the rule of law and the equality of everyone before the law."

The party's three co-chairmen will be Boris Titov, Georgy Bovt and Leonid Gozman, currently of Civil Force, the Democratic Party and the SPS, respectively. The party is expected to take part in the March 2009 regional elections.

At 5:16 PM, Blogger Ken Wedding said...

From Johnson's Russia List

THE PUTIN/MEDVEDEV RELATIONSHIP: Puppetry, Sham or an Inherently Russian Solution

"Putin and Medvedev have the same roots - they problem-solved, side-by-side, in Petersburg during Russia's desperate 90s. Putin was Medvedev's trusted mentor. In Russia this counts big. They are both devoted to a practical vision and strategy for Russia. Such relationships in Russia have a quality seldom found in the west. Competition isn't an issue; deference, trust and respect exists toward the elder - and trust, promotion and a sense of responsibility for, is accorded the protege. Neither side will transgress these bonds.

"We in the west are so accustomed to 'inevitable' competition between alpha males and testosterone politics, that we really don't, or perhaps can't, comprehend this special relatedness that occurs, not infrequently, across Russia. Conversely, it is also true that outside these, and other trusted relationships among Russians, a general distrust of other fellow citizens exists - which complicates Russia's evolution toward development of political parties and electoral politics..."

At 5:19 PM, Blogger Ken Wedding said...

From last July's The Atlantic

The Master and Medvedev

"Dmitry Anatol’yevich Medvedev’s inauguration as Russia’s president was supposed to ensure stability—for his predecessor, mentor, and now self-selected prime minister, Vladimir Putin, and for the Russian people, who are enjoying their first sustained prosperity since the collapse of the Soviet Union. In effect, when Russian voters went to the polls in March, they granted Putin, whose approval rating hovers between 70 and 80 percent, the moral and de facto right to remain the country’s leader, albeit one working from Russia’s White House (the seat of government) and not the Kremlin.

"Yet far from settling the issue of who runs Russia, the instatement of the Medvedev-Putin duo opens an era potentially fraught with danger. Not only does any form of power-sharing run counter to the currents of Russian history, but Medvedev’s electoral victory followed nasty factional struggles among those passed over by Putin—struggles that could still bear bitter fruit. And despite Medvedev’s demonstrated loyalty, the alchemy of power may yet inspire him to unseat the man who put him in office.

"Dyarchy has never worked in Russia. Most recently, in 1993, the standoff between President Boris Yeltsin and his vice president, Alexander Rutskoi, ended only when the former shelled the latter’s lair in the White House..."

At 5:23 PM, Blogger Ken Wedding said...

From last March's Voice of America

Medvedev-Putin Relationship May Guide Future Russian Policy

"But analysts say the Russian constitution is clear as to who will be in charge of foreign relations. It says the Russian president will govern the foreign policy of the country and represent Russia on the world stage.

"Experts say a more important question is whether Dmitri Medvedev, who owes so much to outgoing President Putin, will be his own man or whether he will be 'Putin's puppet.'

"Jason Lyall is a Russia expert at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

"'I do not think we actually know the answer to this question right now. Medvedev is in some ways just a cipher - we do not know that much about him. He is portrayed as Putin's man, but he is just been recorded as saying no, the power runs through the presidency,' said Lyall. 'And so you might see in the beginning that Putin is running the show. But my hunch is that Medvedev is going to step in, he is going to develop his own power base and this may get into a real interesting situation where there are dual power centers in Russia. And I honestly do not know how this is going to play out. I do not think anybody knows yet how this is going to play out. It is going to hinge on the relationship between these two men. In the beginning, I think Putin is going to be calling the shots. Two years down the road - I just do not know.'...


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