Staunton, December 28 – Vladimir Putin’s decision to integrate local self-administration into his power vertical and replace elected mayors with appointed city managers further undermines democracy in Russia and further centralizes the political system, according to Kirill Kazantsev and Aleksandra Rumyantseva.
The two political scientists say that “as a result of the amendments to the Constitution, local self-administration in Russia ceased two be independent. Now it is included in ‘the single system of public power’ subordinate to the president (cpur.ru/new-research/r_local_government_from_election_to_appointment/).
In fact, Kazantsev and Rumyantseva point out, this simply formalized and extended what had already been taking place; and they also note that in this case, the Kremlin acted on what it said was “international experience,” primarily that of the United States where there has been a shift from elected mayors to city managers.
Other countries have taken this step in order to improve efficiency and prevent local political machines from dominating city governments, but in Russia, the two say, the liquidation of elections “not only at the municipal but at other levels of power,” such as the regions, eliminate any such positive contribution.
Instead, it has reduced the importance of local governments and meant that Russians have to look elsewhere and especially to Moscow for solutions to their problems, thus providing a political basis for the centralization that the current Kremlin leader has pursued since coming to power in 2000.
The two political scientists draw in particular five other conclusions related to this: First, they say, the regions have been the big beneficiaries because the cities can’t become the breeding grounds for challengers to them. Second, the spending of municipalities has declined so that they simply are doing less than they were.
Third, the involvement of municipalities in economic activities has significantly declined. Fourth, budgets at the municipal levels have been cut, reinforcing all of these trends. And fifth, and most worrisome of all, there is no evidence that this shift has led to an improvement in the quality or efficiency of city governance.