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Experts explain how Russia is managed

August 21, 2012, 13:00 UTC+3
There is no tandem any longer, says the report of experts “Big Government of Vladimir Putin and Political Bureau 2.0”
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MOSCOW, August 21 (Itar-Tass) — There is no tandem any longer, the governing system has returned to the model under which Vladimir Putin performs the role of ultimate arbitrator, says the report of experts “Big Government of Vladimir Putin and Political Bureau 2.0”. The report based on an opinion poll of more than 60 representatives of political and business elite of the country was made up by president of Minchenko Consulting Yevgeny Minchenko and the head of the analytical department of the International Institute for Political Expertise, Kirill Petrov.

Having been elected president, Vladimir Putin has completed the construction of his “big government,” the Kommersant daily writes. Within the system of collective leadership of the country, Vladimir Putin has the role of arbitrator who maintains the balance inside elite clans and besides distributes welfare so that “all be locked in a clinch, after which the ultimate arbitrator makes decisions”. Experts compare Putin’s close circle, whose influence not always coincides with a high formal status within the system of state management, with the Soviet-era Political Bureau

A “panel of control”, reserve to the “real” government of Dmitry Medvedev has been set up within the presidential administration. Former Putin’s ministers have been transferred there: having the status of presidential advisers they control core departments of the presidential administration that “can compete with government ministries and departments as to the speed of going through bureaucratic procedures”. The president has also formed several new commissions, including for the fuel-and-energy complex and for control over the implementation of election pledges, which bring together both ministers and representatives from the presidential administration. “This demonstrates control of the president over the government as well as over the administration,” the report said.

However, one should not speak about the vertical of power controlled by one person, experts stress, as Putin’s role is that of “arbitrator and moderator” in maintaining the balance between clans and groups that compete with each other for resources. Experts put on the list of “Political Bureau 2.0” people who coordinate the interests of different elite groups.

Experts name Dmitry Medvedev number one among eight members of the political bureau. Although he has lost part of “the coalition in support of the second term” and gave up “ideological leadership”, some positions in law enforcement agencies, he has got “the United Russia Party” and the possibility to set up his own group with economic basis. The head of Rosneft, Igor Sechin, on the one hand seeks to become “the main player in the fuel-and-energy sector”, and on the other hand – he retains an informal influence on law enforcement agencies, “that will inevitably begin weakening after he retires from the state service”. According to experts, entrepreneurs Gennady Timchenko and Yuri Kovalchuk also take part in the decision making.

Experts give an important role to the director general of the Rostekhnologii state corporation, Sergei Chemezov, Moscow Mayor Yuri Sobyanin as well as the head of the presidential administration, Sergei Ivanov. The function of political management has been monopolized by the first deputy head of the presidential administration, Vyacheslav Volodin, a “novice in the political bureau”.

As for other influential players, the authors of the report refer to them as to “alternate members of the political bureau”. About 45 people are on that list.

“In fact, such a model of government has been built nowadays that is inoperative without participation of Putin himself,” Yevgeny Minchenko told the Kommersant daily. According to him, this has been achieved through a big number of parallel structures and cross-authorities “to get all locked in a clinch, so that then the ultimate arbitrator could make the decisions”.

The Vedomosti newspaper quotes experts as saying that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is not a member of the tandem, but one of the eight people close to Putin: he had to give up his own political ambitions for a while and lose henchmen in power-wielding agencies. But this official position lets him lead his own group with an independent economic basis, which includes deputies to the prime minister, ministers, regional heads, high-ranking officials in courts, the State Duma and law enforcement agencies as well as business executives. Experts list Roman Abramovich, Alexander Voloshin and Tatyana Dyachenko among Medvedev’s allies.

The authors of the report believe that the group of Sechin is interested in a more conservative, inertial development of the situation, the role of Medvedev’s group will grow in case of “controlled instability”, while a crisis plays more into the hands of Sobyanin’s group.

The “bigger Moscow,” the development of Siberia and the Far East as well a new stage of privatization are the main projects around which the competition concentrates.

The Vedomosti newspaper quotes an official close to the presidential administration as saying that groups of interests exist always. Another federal official does not agree either with the lineup of the “political bureau” or with the fact that such a system has survived since Putin’s previous presidential term: the influence of certain people from the president’s milieu has declined, he listens to all but a little bit, and makes decisions practically alone.

Political analyst Igor Bunin believes that each of the above mentioned players has an influence in his or her strictly regulated zone of responsibility (Sechin does not interfere with politics, Volodin – with economy, etc.), while Medvedev is more influential than the others.

The described system does not take into consideration the fact that the country faces a political crisis and major players have a lot at stake, political analyst Olga Kryshtanovskaya notes. Fragmentation of the elite proceeds in respect to a beginning revolution and the protest movement, and Medvedev is rather in the opposition.

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