Part of the opposition believes that dialogue is not possible without Putin’s unconditional surrender. These people are not ready for any talks or dialogue. There are others who are also dissatisfied with the status quo and want to express their opinion. For them dialogue in the form of articles, speeches and Q&A sessions began long ago.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, one of the presidential candidates, has published in the leading Russian mass media a series of articles on politics, the ethnic issue, the economy and the development of public administration since the beginning of 2012. Political scientist Andranik Migranyan, Director of the New York office of the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation shared with the valdaiclub.com his thoughts on the ideas voiced by Putin in his article “Democracy and the Quality of Government” in the newspaper Kommersant and developed at the meeting with Russian political scientists, many of whom are members of the Valdai Discussion Club.
Do you think this article was a kind of response to the demands of the opposition? Do rallies have any influence on strategic decision-making in Russia?
I think the government has been in dialogue with the opposition for a long time, but that's not the point. Part of the opposition believes that dialogue is not possible without Putin’s unconditional surrender. These people are not ready for any talks or dialogue. There are others who are also dissatisfied with the status quo and want to express their opinion. For them dialogue in the form of articles, speeches and Q&A sessions began long ago. Yesterday, Putin had one such conversation with the expert community, during which the most pressing issues were raised. For his part, Putin demonstrated full readiness for dialogue.
Is Putin ready for partial deconstruction of the vertical of power and the decentralization of the country?
This is a very complicated and controversial issue. I supported the decision to cancel direct elections of governors. Strong governors always suppress business, criminals and power agencies and guarantee permanent re-election for themselves. Were it not for this decision, governors would have been in permanent office. Many do not mention this argument of Putin’s. Clearly, there must be competition between candidates at the regional level and the voters must control the elections. Yet, for the normal functioning of a federation as vast as Russia, the federal center must still have its own levers of influence.
To improve the mechanism of government Putin suggests borrowing “the best sustainable practices used by government institutions of the leading countries.” What institutions should be borrowed and from whom?
Almost all American politicians and experts maintain that the liberal democratic system is dysfunctional and undergoing a severe crisis. The system of checks and balances has paralyzed the work of institutions. Strong lobbies have further aggravated the crisis of decision making. As a result, all Western countries have started borrowing and become dependent on never-ending rounds of elections, the mood of the electorate and the positions of different groups of influence. Nevertheless, the EU and U.S. experience is still of interest to Russia, in particular, in formulating and promoting civil initiatives. It is worth noting the experience of California, where this process has proved the most successful. There, a project is drafted by public initiative and submitted to a referendum if it receives the required support and number of votes. The uniqueness of this process lies in the fact that the project in question is not submitted to the legislative assembly or discussed by MPs, but acquires legal force through a plebiscite. Putin has suggested something similar regarding civil initiatives on the Internet. I think this idea needs to be fleshed out.