The Putinization of Russia

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on May 21, 2012

No one should be surprised by this story, but it is disturbing nonetheless:

Russian President Vladimir Putin will unveil a government dominated by loyalists on Monday, leaving Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev limited scope to pursue his reform agenda and entrenching the Kremlin’s grip over the economy’s commanding heights.

Medvedev, 46, named premier after Putin returned to the Kremlin on May 7, has pledged to launch pro-growth policies and a privatisation drive to wean Russia’s $1.7 billion economy off its dependence on oil.

But, even though the partners in Russia’s ruling ‘tandem’ announced they would switch jobs as long ago as last September, the lengthy and secretive process of forming a government has raised concerns that it will be riven by factional conflict.

Medvedev, speaking at a Group of Eight summit at the weekend where leaders discussed how to contain the euro zone’s debt crisis, rebutted the sceptics.

“The government will be substantially renewed – that’s why forming it has taken longer than in the past,” he said at Camp David, U.S. President Barack Obama’s retreat outside Washington.

“We have a plan of action … that was tested in the first phase of the crisis,” Medvedev told reporters. “If needed, we can put it into effect – in that sense all our guns are loaded.”

I’ll believe that things are hunky-dory with the Russian government when the set-up allows members of the government to tell Vladimir Putin that he is full of it to his face, and not encounter reprisals as a consequence. I’ll believe that things are hunky-dory with the Russian government when the set-up not only allows dissent, but actively encourages it, and rewards people for speaking truth to power.

Until then, I won’t call the ruling mechanism in Russia a government. Instead, I’ll call it a cult of personality. I like to be accurate in my descriptions, after all.

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