Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, June 10, 2013

Let's have less democracy

Repression ahead
ON A recent stormy night, Moscow’s hip crowd gathered for the opening of the summer terrace at the Strelka architecture and design institute, which has one of the city’s trendiest bars. It has served as a shelter for educated, Westernised and privileged Muscovites.. .

President Putin
When Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin a year ago many expected repression to be swift and brutal. But he took his time, letting the public and the West get used to each small tightening of the screw. A year on the growing repression is clear…

The former president (now prime minister), Dmitry Medvedev, who symbolised a quasi-thaw, has not yet been fired, but he has been weakened…

[F]aced with mass protests by civil activists and ordinary citizens, not politicians, the Kremlin is trying to extend its control to other areas, including the internet and even entertainment magazines which carry protest banners…

A problem with Russian politics is that so much of it happens in one man’s head. A turn towards repression may not be a sign of Mr Putin’s strength, but rather of his fear and desperation. Some advisers say he is worried about instability and is doing as much as he can to eliminate anything or anyone that contributes to it…

What he does not see is that the biggest destabilising factor of all was his own return to the Kremlin. In trying to hold the situation still, he destabilises it further, forcing further repression. Lacking a coherent ideology, the Kremlin is justifying itself by ratcheting up its confrontation with the West and its search for enemies within. It has partly succeeded… Nationalism, xenophobia and intolerance, once part of the political fringe, have become mainstream… Confrontation with the West has a polarising effect on the Russian elite, squeezing out those most linked to the West and strengthening the siloviki, the security services, who demand more purges…

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