Staunton, December 2 – Many Russian analysts and many in the West as well accept that Russia under Putin is a system which combines authoritarian and democratic characteristics and argue that these democratic features will ultimately degrade and lead to the transformation of such a hybrid system into a democracy.
One of their number, Yekaterina Schulmann of the Russian Academy of Economics and State Service offers a list of 11 “hybrid” regimes, including Russia, Venezuela, Egypt, Turkey, Indonesia, Tunisia, Malaysia, Tanzania, Mexico and Serbia, all of which could become democracies eventually by democratic means (meduza.io/cards/kakoy-v-rossii-politicheskiy-rezhim).
Moscow economist and commentator Andrey Illarionov suggests that she is stacking the deck by including in her list countries that are partially free already. He offers an alternative “group” of countries like Russia on the basis of Freedom House’s ranking of free, partially free, and unfree countries (echo.msk.ru/blog/aillar/2103208-echo/).
That list includes countries whose political regimes are “hardly unfree;” that is, which rank at 23 or below in terms of political rights and civic freedoms. If one examines that group, the economist says, “not one of the 35” with a harshly unfree political regime like Russia “has ever been changed as a result of the application of democratic procedures.”
Instead, in such political systems, which Illarionov describes as “authoritarian, semi-totalitarian or totalitarian,” any real change occurs either as a result of force or a conspiracy at the top. Thus, any participation in elections organized by such systems has only “one result – the strengthening (by means of legitimation) of an unfree political regime.”
At the same time, he argues, such regimes can be replaced “not only from outside but from within. But in any case, this will not occur any means other than force or an evolution that requires as a preliminary condition the replacement of the first person in the state.” In Russia’s case, that would involve Vladimir Putin’s departure.
Consequently, he continues, “all the work of civil society activists …undoubtedly is noble and deserves all possible support: it can promote the raising of the political education of civil society activists.” But such work “in no way requires the participation of representatives of the consistent opposition in imitation procedures like the so-called ‘presidential elections.’”