Tuesday, September 14, 2004

the quiet revolutionary

Putin has finally taken what many said was the next logical step in his consolidation of power. In the midst of our own intelligence agency reorganization, we would do well to watch how President Putin uses concerns over terrorism to strong arm through his power consolidation. If Putin's new plan is enacted, as it almost certainly will be, there will be virtually no significant checks left on Putin or United Russia.

I'll write more later, other people are waiting to use this computer. Here's the gist of it from the NY Times:
Under Mr. Putin's proposals, which he said required only legislative approval and not constitutional amendments, the governors or leaders of the country's 89 regions would no longer be elected by popular vote but rather by local legislatures - and only after the president's nomination. Seats in the lower house of the federal Parliament, or Duma, would be elected entirely on national party slates, eliminating district races across the country that now decide half of Parliament's composition. In elections last December, those races accounted for all of the independents and liberals now serving in the Duma.
I'm not really sure how else to react to this. It's a power grab, masked as a national unity movement in the face of international terrorism. Watch for a mellow reaction from team Bush, which I assure you, is taking notes. I guess I really was hoping that Putin would be clever enough to work with the already enormous power he holds; flagrant steps away from the letter and the spirit of the constitution like these will only serve to undermine Putin's credibility with his people and the international community. I really can't help but to read this as another show of weakness on Putin's part. I think he's realizing that at some point people are going to start expecting results and improvements during his second term, and certainly the war in Chechnya is no closer to an acceptable end.

Although Putin has only just begun his second (and constitutionally mandatory last consecutive) term, I think question of what's next is already on the plate here. Since United Russia is basically Vladimir Putin's party (as opposed to Putin being United Russia's candidate...), it's hard to imagine him losing much power after 'leaving the presidency' should he decide he doesn't want to. Who knows - maybe Putin wanted to directly appoint his governors so that he could test a whole bunch of United Russia party (president) loyalists to get a feel for competent and malleable successors?

The reactions to this will be harsh (and rightly so), but it won't be Putin who reinstalls the creepy Stalinist state. I'm more worried about what's down the road for Russia if something happens to Putin and he leaves the hulking super-presidential state to move and evolve on its own. After Putin entirely leaves the political spectrum for whatever reason, it won't be 'united Russia' or the Russian people picking the new president, it will be the siloviki. And so maybe the capital will move to Petersburg once again?

Really what I'm getting at is for everyone back home (and all the Americans abroad, for that matter) to get it together and get Bush out of office so I have a happy place to come home next June. Please?