Staunton, June 21 – Dmitry Orlov, a specialist on political communication who advises the United Russia Party, says that polls don’t show that the Russian public is very much interested in democracy and the rule of law but do suggest that parts of the elite very much are, something the ruling party cannot ignore.
According to him, they are interested in “defense against direct arbitrariness and greater representation of regional and local interests so that the powers that be will consider the opinions of citizens in the development of policies and so that these policies will be more distinctly social” (business-gazeta.ru/article/513578).
Orlov tells Vadim Bondar of Kazan’s Business-Gazeta portal that the Russian population is balanced between a willingness to pay more taxes to improve the situation and fears that if the current situation remains in place, they will lose their jobs and their future. They are not focused on the larger questions of democracy and rule of law.
But members of local and regional elites and some in Moscow are currently focusing on these issues because they appreciate even if the population does not that only shifts in the direction of democracy and especially rule of law will allow people to make progress, have their views recognized, and not lose in the future anything they may gain.
Polls show that ever more Russians and ever more Russian elites feel the country is moving in the wrong direction, Orlov says; but ordinary Russians focus on their immediate concerns while at least some among the elites are beginning to think in broader terms. United Russia has to take both of these things into consideration.
Addressing the immediate concerns of the population may be easier in some cases, albeit not in all; but meeting the members of elites who want rule of law and democracy will require a more fundamental change in the Russian political system. The regime is thus likely to tack in various directions between these two sets of demands.
Orlov says the primary elections United Russia has organized are useful in that regard. He adds that the rise of media personalities among the leading candidates also is useful because it reflects a worldwide trend away from lawyers as parliamentarians toward those who have gained attention of the population through the media.
Some argue that these divisions can be overcome by the imposition of a state ideology, but the Constitution prohibits that. “In fact, however, the ruling class has a real ideology, one based on the ideas of dynamic development and modernization in such a way that the institutions and values which have been formed earlier in society are maintained.”
No one is making that explicit, but it is one that a large portion of the elites and many in the population, albeit for different reasons, find attractive, Orlov continues, the elites because it promises growth and rising incomes and the population because it suggests the regime will continue to defer to its traditional values.
According to the political analyst, “social stratification is the most serious problem of the country. More than that, it is the problem of equality of opportunities in several senses,” including territorial between the capital and the regions, gender and the increasing impossibility of people rising from lower classes into higher ones. Obviously, the tax system needs changing.