Tuesday, October 19, 2021

As It Guts Federalism, Putin’s Russia Becomes More Like Belarus and China, Aleksandrov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 13 – Russian political scientist Dmitry Mikhaylichenko argues that the provisions of the draft law on regional and local administration “in fact are another step toward a unitary state,” one in which Moscow will decide everything for the regions and the regions under Moscow’s orders will control the municipalities, eliminating a problem area for the center.

            But this arrangement, which brings Russia into correspondence with the rules of the game in Belarus and China, may backfire, socio-technologist Roman Alekhin says. If Moscow is in control of everything, it will have no one to shift the blame to when things go wrong. Instead, the population will be increasingly focused on the center’s mistakes (nakanune.ru/articles/117721/).

            Many analysts have discussed the ways in which Moscow is insisting that Belarus change in order to fit into Russia’s understanding of a union state, but fewer have pointed to the ways in which Russia is increasingly changing its arrangements to correspond not only with the Belarus of Alyaksandr Lukashenka but also with Communist China.

            In fact, Yury Aleksandrov argues, the changes the draft law on regional and local administration that the Kremlin is pushing will eliminate the last remnants of federalism in Russia and make the country far more like the highly centralized regimes in Belarus and China. These all recall Soviet arrangements but except for China without a party like the CPSU.

            “The present system,” the Nakanune commentator says, “even now is significantly different from that which the country received together with a Constitution in December 1993. Now the president appoints regional heads and the powers of the heads of republics are very little different from those of the oblasts and krays.

            To be sure, the election arrangements at the regional level remain in place under the bill, but the Kremlin in every case arranges things so that its candidate is virtually guaranteed to win. If he doesn’t, then the region is effectively cut out of any decision making on budgets and other issues. An analogous set of arrangements governs the relationship of regions and cities.

            Thus, the analyst says, “one can see an attempt to introduce a form of administration of the regions in Russian into something like that which exists in Belarus and China.”  And that in turn means something else: “a variant of political transit in Russia involving the swallowing in some form of Belarus cannot be excluded,” with some predicting joint elections in 2024-2026.

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