Monday, February 16, 2015

Russian Government Downsizing Weakens Both Putin and the Liberals But May Help the Left

Paul Goble


            Staunton, February 16 – Downsizing of government institutions and the firing of part of their staffs “threatens both liberals and the existing powers that be,” according to the editors of “Nezavisimaya gazeta,” the first by depriving them of state support and the second by undercutting the support such people had been giving to the state.


            In a lead article, the editors say that reductions in the staff of government institutions at the central and regional levels may in some cases be as much as 30 percent, and they note that this is not happening for ideological reasons but rather is something the economic situation has forced the government’s hand to do (


            When people lose their government jobs, their views are likely to be “transformed, partially or quite essentially,” shifting from a view that society must rely on the state to one that holds that society should have greater independence from it since the state as an institution has proven unreliable to them personally.


            Such people, “Nezavisimaya gazeta” says, are “a potential electorate for liberal political parties.” But at the same time, because the economy is in crisis, many who lose their government positions may find it difficult if not impossible to obtain analogous ones in the private sector, adopt leftist views, and demand that the state assume a larger role than it has now.


            But in both cases, “they will cease to be loyal to the existing authorities,” and they will contribute to a shift in the definition of what constitutes success in Russia. “The model of the successful individual in Russia during the last decade has been not that of the businessman but that of the bureaucrat or employee of a state corporation.”


            For most of the past 15 years, the paper says, “the political strategy of the ruling elite has been about marginalizing and weakening in every possible way the liberal parties,” and taking away from the left many of its “cards” by promoting, often in “extravagant” and extremely costly ways.


            The authorities largely succeeded with regard to the liberals and, as long as high oil and gas prices gave them the resources to make and fulfill promises, also worked with the left. But “the possibilities for the authorities to purchase the loyalty of citizens is not unlimited,” something that made the second part of the strategy more risky and ultimately impossible.



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