Staunton, August 18 – In what should be a warning to Russians about the future of their own post-Putin regime, a close observer of the situation in Mari El says that a year after its longtime and despised leader Leonid Markelov was ousted and arrested, little has changed because most of those he appointed are still in place.
Andrey Smyshlyaev, who tried to run for governor on the Civic Platform in 2017 but failed to get through the municipal filter, tells Pol Dolgov of Kazan’s Realnoye Vremya little has changed because the new head, Aleksandr Yevstifeyev, has not replaced Markelov-era officials (realnoevremya.ru/articles/108702-intervyu-s-eks-kandidatom-v-glavy-mariy-el-smyshlyaevymласти).
Worse, the absence of change below the very top means that very little can change because “the head of a region by himself doesn’t decide anything,” the opposition politician says. Instead, it is always a specific person, a mayor or minister, who takes most of the decisions or decides how decisions take above are in fact implemented.
Smyshlyaev argues that this reflects a fundamental problem with the Russian system as a whole: legislatures that have oversight and pass laws that really have an impact. Unless such institutions emerge, changes at the top will give rise to great expectations but in a very short time, the population will discover that far less will change than they had expected.
He draws this conclusion on the basis of a close analysis of officials who have survived from Markelov’s time, but Smyshlyaev’s point applies to Russia as a whole and should serve as a warning to those who think that once Vladimir Putin leaves the scene everything will change. Unless all the Putinists go and the rule of law is established, almost nothing will.