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Margareta Mommsen

Russia's Managed Democracy

The Tandem Putin - Medvedev


From: Stimmen der Zeit, 5/2009, p. 307-320
webmaster's own, not authorized translation


    Since the adoption of a democratic constitution in Russia in December 1993 the gap between the constitutional standard and constitutional practice widened more and more. MARGARETA MOMMSEN, professor of political science at the University of Munich explores why the desired fundamental change for democracy in post-Soviet Russia was to a large extent unsuccessful.


In Russia the adoption of a democratic constitution in December 1993 ushered in a new era. But it soon turned out that the practical implementation of the new rules did not live up to the intentions of the fathers of the constitution. Over the past ten years the gap between constitutional standard and constitutional practice has more and more widened. This gave cause for coining terms in which this trend is vividly reflected. "Managed democracy" got the largest spread. A Russian journalist launched this concept in the press at the start of Vladimir Putin's presidency {1}. The formula retained its actuality beyond Dmitri Medwedjew's election as president in March 2008. In addition the so-called "tandem democracy" came into fashion. With it one was hinting at the new political dual leadership and at the same time at the continuous lack of democracy.

By using "managed democracy" or the similarly coined terms of "simulated" or "imitated democracy" it is mainly about emphasizing by means of criticism and malice that democratic institutions and processes such as elections and a parliament do admittedly continue to exist but are subjected to a strict control from above. Its consequence is that there is no free and open party competition and the public space of politics is extremely constricted. Since these conditions still worsened during Putin's second presidency, it became customary among critical observers to give up the concept 'democracy' and to speak of an "authoritarian" and even "autocratic" system.

In this contribution is to be explored why the intended fundamental change for democracy in post-Soviet Russia was to a large extent unsuccessful. In addition to that the question is of interest what basic features distinguish a "managed democracy" and whether there are prospects of a new wave of political liberalization under Medwedjew's presidency. This analysis is committed to a critical approach inherent in the system. It aims at illuminating the individual causes and the extent of the discrepancy between constitutional standard and constitutional practice. Also the burden of the Soviet period as well as the visions and models towards which the leading political actors of the radical change were oriented come in the focus of attention.



The difficulties of the change of system are to be expounded on the basis of the dynamic development during Yeltsin's and Putin's presidency. Above all, the breaks between the temporary measures under Yeltsin and the institutionalization of authoritarianism under Putin are to be taken into consideration. In a further step the shady tricks and the "hand control", as Putin himself called it, of the "operation successor" will be described, which have the transition from Putin's monocentric system to the "Tandem Putin - Medvedev" as their object. The occurrences here observable illustrate like a didactic play the typical characteristics of the "managed democracy". Finally, the mechanisms of the current collective leadership are examined and scenarios discussed which could lead out of the tandem and particularly out of the "managed democracy".


Constitutional Struggle and Faulty Start into Democracy under Yeltsin's Presidency

One of the greatest obstacles when starting in a democratic system of government was that among the political elites no consensus on a new constitutional order existed. In the struggle for the respective dominance of legislature or executive the then "People's Deputies Congress" of the Russian state and Boris Yeltsin, the by the people directly elected Russian President blocked each other. Only the enforced dissolution of Parliament in October 1993 {2} led out of the impasse of the "diarchy". This initiative became in turn a portent for those forces which had wanted to introduce democracy in a peaceful way. Additional confusion was caused by the fact that the old Soviet constitution at the end of the USSR had often been changed and had therefore become unsuitable for controlling the ship of state. There was an abundance of new models and commissions to draw up a constitution. One oriented as well towards reforms which, as the introduction of a presidency under Mikhail Gorbachev, had come into late and ineffective favour. While the USSR came to an end in the whirl of national liberation movements, the leaders of the successor states eagerly resorted to the model of a strong presidency which they regarded as the most important prerequisite for a stable state and a successful change of system.

Two months after the violent dissolution of Parliament in December 1993 in Russia too a constitution was adopted, which at first sight revealed a considerable concentration of power with the President. The French constitutional lawyer Patrice Gelard said that the new Russian Constitution was made "50 percent of French constitutional inspiration, 30 percent of American inspiration and 20 percent of Russia's imperial heritage" {3}.



In Russia the new constitutional order was differently assessed. It became common practice among political actors to call it "presidential" system, whereas individual Russian constitutional lawyers as well as Western experts were of the opinion that it was a semi-presidential or parliamentary-presidential mixed system. Also Valery Sorkin, Chairman of the Russian Constitutional Court, belonged to those interpreters. He always emphasized that the Russian Constitution was modelled on the Constitution of the Fifth French Republic. On the occasion of the 15th birthday of the Russian Constitution on 12 December 2008 these assessments were repeated {4}. At this opportunity the author and expert in constitutional law Sergei Schachraj reminded of the fact that in the course of working out the Constitution one had a mixed system in mind and had not at all wanted to establish a "strong presidency" {5}.

However, contrary to these objectives in the constitutional reality from the outset a very strong presidency stood its ground, a sort of "superpresidentialism", as Boris Yeltsin's regiment was soon called. On that occasion above all the fact that the new institutions, beyond all constitutional philosophies, directly emerged from the Soviet state institutions had an unfavourable effect. The new officials came without exception from the communist nomenklatura and brought therefore along Soviet authoritarian and technocratic habitual ways of thinking which were not appropriate for the new constitutional order. Especially Boris Yeltsin, Russia's democratic "founder president" who had been for many years communist regional party secretary was confronted with different influences and challenges of the radical change {6}. These included Soviet mentalities, first experiences with a rude parliament and an embryonic party system and with unpredictable dramatic attendant circumstances of the "rebirth" of Russia as well. Against this background he was together with his fellow campaigners obsessed with the idea to set up a system with a strong executive. Out of this desire the Yeltsin leadership interpreted the new constitutional order as a "presidential" system and saw it as the president's hegemony over all other state organs.

Despite this one-sided interpretation as a presidential system the adopted constitutional order, however, keeps many options open and is perfectly suited for a modern democracy, while at the same time respecting the prominent position of the president. In the constitutional practice, however, the flirting with the "presidentialism" favoured the actual emergence of an authoritarian system, and impaired at the same time the development of a democratic infrastructure. Besides, the idea was able to maintain its position that the government was only a subordinated implementing organ, a kind of "economic cabinet" in the style of the Soviet model. However, to the dual executive embodied in the Constitution and thus to the political role of the government as good as no attention was given. The semi-presidential logic of the Constitution did not become noticeable.



One of the major reasons for this development was that Yeltsin as well as his "young reformers", traumatized by the constitutional struggle, first and foremost endeavoured to clear the president the way to a rapid transformation towards market economy. That's why the misunderstanding of the constitutional order as a "presidential system" quickly gained a foothold. Yeltsin's understanding of democracy was actually above all oriented towards introducing market economy. Although the "young reformers" knew the democratic ABC better, they too regarded the rapid transition to a market economy as a priority and supported therefore a strong "presidentialism".

With the deliberately one-sided interpretation of the Constitution the weakness of political parties and the inherited attitude of obedience to authority were helpful. So Yeltsin defended his "presidential" understanding of the Constitution already in late autumn 1993:

"But what do you want? In a country which is used to Tsars and leaders, in a country where no clear interest groups developed, in which the holders of interests are not yet determined but just normal parties are in the process of emerging; in a country where the legal nihilism is everywhere at home - do you in such a country want solely or primarily to attach main importance to the Parliament? ... Every period has its own balance of power in a democratic system. Today, in Russia this balance is in favour of the President." {7}

Yeltsin's accurate assessment of the weakness of political parties took place before the first Duma elections. Their result in December 1993 was a totally unclear balance of power. The president had no parliamentary majority party as a power base and as a staff reservoir when the formation of the government was waiting to be dealt with. He therefore preferred to appoint technocrats for the Presidential Cabinet {8}. This pattern of forming the government without taking into account the parliamentary majority became the accepted thing. It was still practiced as President Putin long since had constitutional two-thirds majorities of the Kremlin parties at his disposal. This shows that the political leaders doggedly closed their mind to the basic requirements of a modern democracy. This has lastingly impeded the development of the parties and the emergence of politically accountable cabinets. The democratic institutions had thus an extremely bad start.

Against the background of weak parliaments and politically colourless cabinet ministers the presidential administration developed into a "government" in the true sense of the word {9}. From the outset it was generally the prevailing opinion that the government had to give priority treatment to economic issues, whereas the administration had to deal with political issues of the country. This corresponded to the typical Soviet separation between the state organs the activity of which was restricted to "administration" and the highest party organs which formed politics. The continuity between the Soviet system and post-Soviet "democracy" was striking.



For the presidential administration de facto in many ways entered into the heritage of the powerful Secretariat of the CPSU Central Committee, whereas the new government succeeded the Soviet Cabinet of Ministers which was of minor standing {10}.

It was matching to it that the new political leadership distinguished itself by a technocratic conception of itself. Still at the beginning of 1996 in connection with the formation of a government Viktor Chernomyrdin, Prime Minister for many years e.g. declared himself in favour for a Cabinet of "professionals", since according to his opinion it was not a political organ {11}. But when at the beginning of 1998 Chernomyrdin showed more independence and interest in succeeding the president, Yeltsin saw that it was time for his replacement. He justified the dismissal of the government as follows:

"The country needs a new team. The cabinet members are to give more attention to the decision of concrete issues and are less to care about politics." {12}

Only with the Primakov government, which held office from September 1998 to May 1999 and had come into being in the context of the economic and financial crisis a temporary break with those ways of thinking and behaviour patterns opened up. For the first time also the semi-presidential constitutional design became noticeable. Yevgeni Primakov, the designated Prime Minister got broad support in the Duma, and he for his part tried, on the basis of parliamentary balance of power, to take over control in forming a real coalition government. During his term of office the presidential administration promptly lost its dominant role in comparison to the Cabinet of Ministers. Yeltsin too clearly lost in political stature, and his notorious reshuffling [Kaderkarussel], with which he time and again tried to produce a balance of power between the various organs of the executive, took this time no effect {13}.

Primakov, however, was soon replaced by Sergei Stepaschin and Stepaschin by Vladimir Putin as prime minister, because the Office of the Prime Minister had to be cleared for Yeltsin's successor candidate chosen by the informal power cartel of the "Kremlin family". After the hapless token candidate Stepaschin Vladimir Putin, as the last chosen candidate, was promoted to prime minister in August 1999. Putin was at that time head of the successor institution to the KGB (FSB) and secretary of the Security Council. He contributed 17 years of professional experience in the KGB to his new office that he only a few months later replaced by the presidency. After Yeltsin had at the end of 1999 prematurely resigned, Putin was automatically promoted to the rank of a "caretaker" president. From there it was an easy matter to gain the victory in the presidential elections in March 2000 {14}.

The political system that had developed in the Yeltsin era consisted on the whole in a changing mix of democratic, authoritarian and anarchic elements. An outstanding feature was its simultaneous oligarchic character



that was attributed to the growing dominance of informal power circles of high officials of the state and to the captains of industry, the so-called "oligarchs" of the privatized state enterprises. Notwithstanding these developments which did harm to the public control of the political leadership under Yeltsin some democratic essentials survived, as for instance mechanisms of separation of powers in the relationship between legislature and executive and between the centre and the regions. Also media diversity and freedom of expression belonged to the achievements of the Yeltsin years. In the opinion of most political scientists the political system under Yeltsin was therefore tolerated as a "defective democracy" {15}. One of its most striking and lasting "defects" was the rigged transfer of power to Yeltsin's successor Vladimir Putin.


Putin's "Managed Democracy" and the "Vertical of Power"

From his predecessor Putin took over the interpretation of the constitutional order as a "presidential system" and the tendency to transfer political decision-making processes into informal oligarchic circles. He also pursued the aims of a liberal economic policy chosen by Yeltsin's "young democrats". But he showed no appreciation for the separation of powers and free media which had remained intact under Yeltsin. On the contrary, he made every effort to dismantle the vertical and horizontal separation of powers. The liberal media were severely restricted. Putin's "presidentialism" and the establishment of a "vertical of power" aspired by him was incompatible with veto players {16}. The many working years in the KGB had obviously impregnated Putin far stronger than Yeltsin by the Soviet way of thinking, i.e. to keep everything under control.

Yeltsin's "defective democracy" and the in the 90s created system of a polycentrically fragmented power was little by little replaced by a meticulously "managed democracy" with a tight "power vertical". A regime controlled from the top and time and again adjusted by "hand control" ensured that the outcome of elections was without any risk for the political leadership. However, the democratic institutions and procedures survived. But this served only to cover up the actual undermining of the constitutional state. Against this background the words "simulated" and "imitated" democracy came into fashion.

In his second term Putin met with constant approval of 70 to 80 percent of the population ascertained by opinion polls. The impression arose that he alone at the top of the "vertical" embodied the entire state power. Russian sociologists spoke of a "monocentric" system, Western Russia experts of a "plebiscitary authoritarianism". The regime included a hand-picked managerial staff.



Putin got his fellow campaigners from the circles of his colleagues in law school and work colleagues in the KGB. Because of their particular closeness to the administration of the state power monopoly the latter were called "siloviki". Putin distributed the political allies who came from quite different subcultures to the highest government posts and set thus different directions. They indicated now a more "liberal" direction, then rather the direction of a "Law and Order"-state. The "liberal lawyer" Dmitry Medvedev for instance was appointed head of the administration, and Mikhail Fradkov, a colourless apparatchik with close contacts to the "siloviki" chairman of the government {17}.

Empirical sociological studies proved the extensive and systematic bringing in of representatives from the security services and the military {18}. The new political personnel corresponded to the new ideological goals of the regime. They culminated in the re-establishment of Russia as a strong state and a significant player in world politics. This trend went down very well with the people. Also the economic recovery mainly owed to the booming oil prices on the world markets and the thus enabled improvement in the overall living standard were appreciated. The new plebiscitary authoritarianism of the regime was significantly based on these factors.

The creation of new institutions and the transformation of the constitutional institutions belong to the striking features of Putin's "vertical of power". So the Federation Council lost its under Yeltsin prominent position as a parliamentary veto player. A novelty was the introduction of "authorized deputies of the President," the consultative "State Council" and an also only advisory "Public Chamber". Last link in the tightening up the vertical was the abolition of the direct election of governors by the people {19}. The institutional innovations were without exception inconsistent with the values of the constitutional separation of powers and the democratic representation.

In addition to that the political parties, mass media and parliament were tightly integrated in the "vertical". The vertical is comprehensively controlled by the president and his administration. The "political technologists" as political consultants and professional propagandists of the regime assist it with preparatory work. Here the bills and presidential decrees are prepared and here the work of the government is monitored. The presidential administration is the head of the "vertical". It seems problematical that the almighty authority with its more than 2000 civil servants is without a legal basis and eludes any democratic control.

These conditions are now and again sharply castigated by regime critics, as e.g. by Semjon Nowoprudskij in Wremja Nowostej in May 2008:

"In today's Russia the parliament is no real parliament, the government has long since stopped to be a real government, whereas the presidential administration has already for years the real power instead of serving merely as technical office." {20}



The sociologist Lev Gudkow went in his criticism much further. He said that it was about "sealing the despotism off, about returning to the archaic model of personalized and autocratic power", because the legislature and the executive were dependent on the Kremlin {21}. However, the autocratic power so obviously personified in President Putin was only the façade of the regime, whereas its non-transparent interior frontage consists of an oligarchy of informal groups in which "a few high-ranking officials and big businessmen have the say," as the sociologist Olga Kryschtanowskaja judges {22}. Putin's authority is not solely based on the vertical but also on his role as an efficient moderator of the unofficial power cartel, the so-called Kremlin oligarchy. In both cases Putin benefits from his popularity in the population carefully steered by the media. In view of Putin's unique function as a hinge between the oligarchic and the autocratic formed part of the system a transfer of power to another actor was hardly conceivable. However, this break inexorably approached with the end of Putin's second term in March 2008.


The "Hand Controlled" Transition from Monocentrism to the "Tandem Putin - Medvedev"

There was indeed needed a complicated "hand control" of the political process in order to accomplish the transition from the Putin system to the collective leadership of Putin and Medvedev, the new political "tandem". In the midst of the difficult "Operation Successor" Putin said that the "hand control" was the principle that had still for another 15 to 20 years to determine Russia's system until it could "automatically" function {23}. With these Sibylline words he aimed at the presumable end of the "managing" and the change of direction towards an implemented Constitution.

At any rate, the many shady tricks and improvisations in handling with the "Operation Successor" came from the tool box for the "manual control". The first step in "Operation Successor" was that two semi-official candidates from Putin's entourage, the "liberal" Dmitry Medvedev and the "silovik"

Sergei Ivanov

were admitted to a sort of trial run for the presidency. This was only detectable from their career in the government hierarchy. Polls ascertained their changing sympathy values. In August 2007 Ivanov was before Medvedev. As in mid-September the news leaked out that the Office of the Prime Minister would be filled anew, all observers were therefore convinced that Ivanov would be nominated and that he - according to the patterns of power transfer from Yeltsin to Putin - was the in advance anointed successor of Putin.



But when in the end not Iwanov but the unknown apparatchik Viktor Subkow was nominated as Prime Minister it was clear that the former model of power transfer would not be used again and that Ivanov had been ruled out as a successor {24}. The Kremlin oligarchy had obviously refused him the approval. Meanwhile, time was gained for new manoeuvres.

Indeed, new dynamism came in the puzzle when on 1 October 2007 at the Congress of "United Russia" Putin let himself be asked to lead the list of the party in the forthcoming Duma elections. Putin did not exclude that in case the party won the victory he would lead the government but dissociated himself from it again. The "United Russia" nevertheless passed the Duma elections off as a "referendum on Putin". This was tantamount to a breach of the constitution. It was needed in order not to lose the thin thread of manually controlled transfer of power. Thanks to the alleged plebiscite for Putin the Kremlin party got the desired constituent majority of two thirds of the seats.

The two-thirds majority was valuable political capital to protect any "reconfiguration of power" legally. The plebiscite also helped Putin with moderating the informal Kremlin groups. The increase in Putin's power was all the more necessary as various cliques of the "siloviki" had eluded his authority as arbitrator and were settling their rivalries as public mud-slingings in the press {25}. This occurrence clearly showed everyone how inhomogeneous and, consequently, how unstable the structure of the political leadership was.

On 10 December 2007 Putin presented Medwedjew's candidacy as a proposal by four political parties. With it the guessing-game about the favourite of the Kremlin came to an end. Shortly afterwards Medvedev made an appeal to Putin in case of his election to take over the chairmanship of the Government. This time Putin agreed on principle. The "tandem" became thus an official project {26}. From now on the state-controlled media praised the great benefits of a strong political double leadership Medvedev - Putin. Medwedjew's request Putin should take over the chairmanship of the government suggests that the informal Kremlin oligarchy made their assent to Medvedev conditional upon Putin's escort. For only this way Putin's mandarins could be sure of retaining their power. Many people explained Medwedjew's selection by the fact that the liberal wing in the Kremlin oligarchy had to be strengthened against the brazen "siloviki" {27}. Added to this was that Medvedev had no own power base and was therefore accepted as a weak Kremlin chief with whom the informal co-rulers would have an easy job.

At his last press conference as President on 14 February 2008 Putin also answered questions about his future activities as head of government and about the managing of the "tandem". He replied correctly as defined by the semi-presidential constitutional order that "the highest executive authority in the country was with the Government which is lead by the Prime Minister.



There is enough power," he affirmed. He thus ultimately exposed the till now practiced "presidentialism "and at the same time he hinted at an informal sharing of power. "Dmitry Anatolyevich and I will divide it (power) in a practical way." {28} This suggested that the "hand controlled" politics would be continued.

In order not to endanger right up to the end the calculated power transfer at the top of the state Medvedev abstained from participating in public debates with other candidates. On 2 March 2008 he was, as expected, elected president with a vote share of 70.28 per cent. According to opinion polls a majority was long before ready to vote for any candidate who was favoured by the outgoing president. That's why the finish of the candidate was easy. But first the "Operation Successor" had shown the whole world the systematic manipulation of the electorate as a core element of "guided democracy". In addition to that it had exposed the inhomogeneity of the Kremlin oligarchy and at the same time allowed to look at politically dynamic spheres of the regime. A change in direction could indeed most likely result from a reshuffle of the forces under the informal Kremlin groups.


The Tandem Putin - Medvedev and What Next?

Only one day after Medwedjew's inauguration as President the Duma confirmed Putin as Prime Minister with an overwhelming majority and almost monarchical honours. The virtually simultaneous installation of the two heads of state [Duumviren] was designed for a conspicuous gain in legitimacy for the tandem {29}. In order to put the collective leadership into effect a working group had meanwhile restructured the executive. The government was significantly upgraded by lessening its agenda. Putin took out one committee from the Cabinet in order to "increase the efficiency of the government's work" {30}. In view of the formation of this closer committee in the press critical of the government concerns were voiced that the Soviet Politburo had returned.

The reshuffle of the political personnel in the institutions of the executive caused a complicated shake-up but no blood-letting. The continuity of the cadres had to make it difficult for Medvedev to get fellow campaigners of his personal choice and thus to form a power base {31}. In order to get a broader support Medvedev worked for good relations with all the clans and castes, including the secret services and the military. He can rely on the support of entrepreneurship and the middle class, because these circles appreciate his standing up for conditions founded on the rule of law and for a de-bureaucratization of economy. In order to be well received also by the people



Medvedev tried to replace the popularity that he owed to Putin's reputation with a popularity fed by his own sources. Then the five-day war in the Caucasus was of help to him. For the first time Medvedev presented himself like Putin in a martial posture. He showed militant determination and powerful patriotic eloquence in order to gain recognition for Russia's interests. As a "war president" Medvedev plainly gained in political stature {32}.

On the other hand, the expectations of domestic political thaw initially placed in Medvedev seemed after the August thunderstorms scattered again. The tandem lapsed into its almost usual trot. Medvedev did not come out of the shadow of his mentor Putin. Metaphors of Putin's still dominant leadership persistently hold the field in the general public. Medvedev is for instance regarded as a mere co-pilot in an airplane which is steered by Putin. In a similar direction goes the image of two riders on a tandem bicycle on which Medvedev is only on the child-carrier and, consequently, does not reach the pedals with his feet. Well-known Russian sociologists described Putin and Medvedev as a "single political individual with four legs and four arms" and made thus the low chance of survival of the duumvirate clear {33}.

As Medvedev's first message to the Parliament was repeatedly postponed speculations over possible differences in the tandem came thick and fast. The message was in fact characterized by striking contradictions between a militant anti-American foreign-policy part and a surprisingly liberal part on home affairs. But just with it Medwedjew's proposal to extend the President's term of office from four to six years and thus to achieve a gain in stability for the existing system seemed little compatible {34}. But the apparent contradiction is resolved, if one with good reasons supposes that the two leaders [Duumviren] see in steadying "presidentialism" really the first and very best guarantee of consolidating the system, also and especially in view of the current economic crisis.

Medvedev has repeatedly made the Russian presidial hegemony almost absolute. In an interview in early July 2008 he made these momentous statements:

"With all due respect for the parliamentary form of democracy, the emergence of a parliamentary democracy on the territory of the Russian Federation would mean the death of Russia as a country. Russia must remain for decades or perhaps centuries a presidential Republic in order to survive as a unified state." {35}

With it Medwedjev went further than Yeltsin and Putin in similar warnings about a curtailment of the purported presidentialism. It cannot be excluded that Medvedev's pompous declaration for "presidentialism" tries to counter a possible early termination of his own presidency.



This danger is certainly given in the current constellation of power. For the "United Russia" would absolutely be in the position together with Putin's government to checkmate the president. They would be able to block presidential bills and every veto on the legislation of the Duma. The large majorities in the regional parliaments could undo the presidential appointments to governor posts. It would be easy to take impeachment proceedings against the President and to prevent the dismissal of the Prime Minister requested by the President {36}. Although subversive developments of that kind do not seem to be acute, the scenarios repeatedly proposed by observers show that here ammunition is ready for those who - as e.g. in the Kremlin oligarchy - want a quick end of the collective leadership.

On the other hand the new constellation provides extremely favourable pre-conditions to put at last the relationship between President - Government - Parliament on constitutional democratic foundations. The President could confine himself to his general policy-making power and his status above the executive, and a strong Government Putin, formed out of the "United Russia", could take over the political responsibility to the voters. At the moment there is hardly a point in favour of this scenario despite the raising of the status of the government. For the attitude of obedience to authority has anew and firmly become established in the country. The prudery about parties beginning under Yeltsin as reflex to the communist one-party state and the presidial cabinets which were still conceived as temporary measures have become a matter of course in Putin's "managed democracy". The two heads of state [Duumviren] and larger parts of the political elite are seemingly not ready to lay down the mental Soviet shackles and to face the risks of a free political competition. Despite repeated rhetoric support of a party pluralism one pays homage to the fetish of "presidentialism" without checks and counterbalances and nourishes thus the idea of an unchanging balance of power.

The economic crisis that reached also Russia creates contextual conditions for a change of direction. Among the Kremlin pundits very different scenarios are discussed. Some believe that the crisis will further weld together the tandem, whereas others regard early presidential elections and Putin's return in the Kremlin as a settled thing. Relatively few observers are hoping that the effects of the economic crisis will lead to a rise in social protests and that, as a reaction to it, the replacement of the "managed democracy" with a "development dictatorship" {37} was to be anticipated.

Since the beginning of 2009 the estimates and also the signs have at last been increasing that Medvedev could succeed in consolidating his position.



This would be connected with the entry of reformers into the political leadership. It has in principle to be taken into account that the foundations of the legitimacy of the "managed democracy", which are based on the positive economic development, the general improvement of the material conditions of life, and finally on the increased national pride in Russia's new role as "energy superpower", break down in view of the economic crisis. Under the terms of the prevailing "presidentialism" and the reshuffle of the forces among the informal Kremlin groups, which is to be expected precisely because of the economic crisis, there is indeed much to be said for a renewed attempt to modernize Russia from above.



{1} Sergej Markow, in: Nesawisimaja Gaseta, 2.3.2000.

{2} M. Mommsen, Wohin treibt Rußland? Eine Großmacht zwischen Anarchie u. Demokratie (München 1996) 156 et seq.

{3} S. v. Steinsdorff, Die Verfassungsgenese der Zweiten Russischen u. der Fünften Französischen Republik im Vergleich, in: Zeitschrift für Parlamentsfragen, No. 3/1995, 486-504.

{4} W. Sorkin, Interview with the Rossijskaja Gaseta, 12.12.2008.

{5} S. Schachraj, in: Nesawisimaja Gaseta, 12.12.2008.

{6} M. Mommsen, Wer herrscht in Rußland? Der Kreml u. die Schatten der Macht (München ²2004) 19 et seq.

{7} Iswestija, 16.11.1993.

{8} Mommsen (note 2) 226 et seq.

{9} E. Huskey, Presidential Power in Russia (London 1999) 43 et seq.

{10} 0. Luchterhandt, Präsidentialismus in den GUS-Staaten, in: Neue Regierungssysteme in Osteuropa u. der GUS, edited by the same (Berlin ²2002) 300 et seq.

{11} Quoted from R. Sakwa, Russian Politics and Society, (London ³2002) 115.

{12} M. Mommsen, Die Ohnmacht von Parlament u. Parteien bei der Regierungsbildung in Rußland, in: Das Russische Parlament. Schule der Demokratie?, edited by E. Bos, M. Mommsen and S. v. Steinsdorff (Opladen 2003) 127.

{13} In the same place 130 et seq.

{14} M. Mommsen, Wladimir Putin - Zerstörer der Demokratie u. Begründer einer Oligarchie der Geheimdienste, in: Zwischen Demokratie u. Diktatur. Staatspräsidenten als Kapitäne des Systemwechsels in Osteuropa, edited by E. Bos and A. Helmerich (Berlin 2006) 30 et seq.

{15} G. Mangott, Zur Demokratisierung Rußlands, Volume 1: Rußland als defekte Demokratie (Baden-Baden 2002).

{16} M. Mommsen and A. Nußberger, Das System Putin. Gelenkte Demokratie u. politische Justiz in Rußland (München 2007) 32 et seq.

{17} In the same place 63 et seq.

{18} 0. Kryschtanowskaja, Anatomie der russischen Elite. Die Militarisierung Rußlands unter Putin (Köln 2005) 160 et seq., 144 et seq.

{19} Mommsen and Nußberger (note 16) 36 et seq.

{20} Wremja Nowostej, 14.5.2008.

{21} L. Gudkow, Staat ohne Gesellschaft. Zur autoritären Herrschaftstechnologie in Rußland, in: Osteuropa 1/2008, 9.

{22} Kryschtanowskaja (note 18) 144.



{23} Wremja Novvostej, 19.10.2007.

{24} M. Mommsen, Wer wird Rußland regieren? Die Kreml-AG, in: Rußland. Der Kaukasische Teufelskreis oder die lupenreine Demokratie, edited by N. Schreiber (Klagenfurt 2008) 34 et seq.

{25} Kommersant, 9.10.2007; Novvyje Iswestija, 10.10.2007.

{26} Wremja Nowostej, 11.12.2007; Kommersant, 12.12.2007.

{27} Mommsen (note 24) 46ff.

{28} Rossijskaja Gaseta, 15.2.2008.

{29} Nowaja Gaseta, 8.5.2008.

{30} Moscow Times, 20.5.2008.

{31} ITAR TASS, 15.5.2008.

{32} H.-H. Schröder, Rußland u. der Kaukasuskrieg, in: Rußland-Analysen, Themenheft "Krise im Südkaukasus", No. 169/2008, Forschungsstelle Osteuropa Bremen, 19.9.2008, 16 et seq.

{33} Nesawisimaja Gaseta, 1.12.2008 and 26.11.2008.

{34} Poslanie Federalnomu Sobraniju Rossijskoj Federatsii, President Rossii, Ofitsialnij Sajt, 5.11.2008; H.-H. Schröder, "Change" auf Russisch? Medwedjews erste Botschaft an die Föderalversammlung, in: Rußland-Analysen No. 173, Forschungsstelle Osteuropa, Bremen, 14.11.2008.

{35} Westi TV, 2.7.2008.

{36} Nesawisimaja Gaseta, 8.4.2008; Wedomosti, 16.4.2008; Wremja Nowostej, 8.4.2008.

{37} G. Satarow, Reuters, 30.10.2008.


Link to 'Public Con-Spiration for-with-of the Poor'