Staunton, Dec. 25 – In the 1990s, Moscow promoted the strengthening of municipalities as a check on the power of the heads of oblasts, krays and republics, Mikhail Korobelnikov says. Now, with Moscow having grown stronger, it has undermined the power of both the regional heads and the municipal ones to deflect criticism and win support from business.
But this approach, the Yekaterinburg political scientist says, leaves the center with no allies in the regions capable of responding to local conditions and means that the administrative capacity of the Russian political system as a whole is increasingly at risk, however much power the center assumes it has (club-rf.ru/detail/5995).
During the pandemic, Korobelnikov says, the center transferred to the governors not additional authority but additional unfunded responsibilities to make them more dependent on Moscow and to ensure that popular anger would be directed at them rather than at the government in the capital.
This trend is continuing, he adds, and will do so “at least” until 2024. And the same thing is now happening with local municipal authorities who are being given ever more responsibilities but ever less money to meet them. The center is counting on the power of the purse to keep things in line, but it is depriving itself of the checks on gubernatorial power it had earlier.
One reason that the center believes it can do this with impunity is the insistence of big businesses that they want to deal only with one center of power rather than multiple centers. As one businessman put it recently, Korobelnikov says, “why should I have to reach an agreement with each head of a district?”
But the destruction of regional and local government means not only that officials at those levels can’t respond to local differences but also that the center can’t use some of them against others to control the situation as politicians in other countries often do, using alliances with mayors against states.
And that, the Yekaterinburg expert says, is putting the Russian administrative system on the brink of collapse.