Tag Archives: election

Russian Federation – an old tycoon of the new times (part II)

The second part of the interview argues about the dynamics of the internal politics of Russia and the regional problems at the borders are brought into discussion through the viewpoint of their influence over the internal economic and political environment.

Varianta în limba românăaici.

Interview made by Marius Lefter

Marius Lefter: – At the internal level, the economy of Russia started having systemic problems because of the emphasis and the dependence on the revenues from oil trade. On the other hand, at the external level, Russia plays the game for more than it can afford, comparing with its major competitors. In this case, what could be the reasons of the Russian people to vote for a united country?

Gabriela Ioniţă: – The willing to vote of the Russian people can be seen as a reaction towards the short-term economic reforms with objectives affecting the day-to-day life rather than long-term projects with uncertain timeline. A brief glance at the numerous calls made by President Medvedev to the Russian elite or to the investors to support Russia’s modernization program shows that the lack of trust in politics generates huge gaps in economic reforms.

Moreover, the construction of the vertical power meant control of political growth which resulted in a period of stability, but also a great catch – nothing new and representative grew under the shade of the old hierarchies. After the recent meeting with Prime Minister Putin in Valdai Club meeting, the political scientist Nikolai Zlobin pointed out the absence of guidelines that will form the basis of its future return to Kremlin from the speech of the most powerful man in Russia. This can be explained by the simple fact that Russian Prime Minister acknowledged the lack of new people and ideologies that bring public consensus. In fact, the main problem and the cause of the declining popularity Russia has to face is exactly this one: a rigid political framework, hard to shape, conservative and reluctant to the new events happening in Russia.

So you’re asking what could possibly make the Russian people to vote for a party that they call themselves a party of thieves and crooks (julikov i vorov parti). The answer is the lack of a better option combined with the lack of trust in politicians, no matter what their political beliefs are, given that nothing is allowed in Russia’s politics without the consent of Kremlin.

The scandal in the Right Cause party and the rapid end of Mihail Prokhorov’s political career as a result of the serious accusations made with the interference of the Kremlin (i.e. the number two of the presidential administration, Vladislav Surkov) showed voters once again that the political independence is pure rhetoric.

M.L.: – Going more into detail, which are the civic movements and political parties that will support or enter into alliance with the United Russia, and their reasons?

G.I.: – Russia is not just the country with a famous political tandem. There would be no political tandem without an alternative to the electorate or perspective of political parties, all for the sake of a political stability that Prime Minister Putin doesn’t fail to claim and impose at all costs.

But before analyzing the Russian political scene nowadays, I would like to mention that experts from the Center for Strategic Research in Moscow warned that “in the present socio-political climate, a tactical success can lead to strategic failure”, making reference to the 70% of the votes that are envisaged by the “United Russia” in December elections and also making reference to the machine of the party that would do anything to fulfill the orders from the center.

Experts also argued that a victory in the elections will be seen by most of the people not as an indicator of the popularity of the party, but as a proof that the elections were rigged. The study was made especially because there were suspicions that the level of electoral fraud exceeded all expectations. This is how I could describe the context immediately after the political confrontations of the elections. In this context, the traditional parties make their presence felt – LDPR, the party of Jirinovski, the Communist Party of Ziuganov, the Socialist party of Mironov and the Iabloko Social Liberal party led by Sergey Mitrohin (each with their loyal voters who didn’t change too much over the elections). In addition, there were other small parties faithful and belonging to the Kremlin. And we also have a puppet opposition that is more present at international meetings than at home, where arrests and releases have become ironically a source of amusement. (…)

Interview full can be read here.

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2011 in Review

As we’re quickly approaching the end of December, I thought it would be appropriate to take a look over the last year.

2011 was a hectic year. 2011 was a year of turmoil, from revolutions in the Middle East and fiery turbulence in London to milder outbursts against Netflix price increases or the Hershey warehouse’s student working conditions. Even Time Magazine selected ‘The protester’ as the Person of the Year. Much agitation and latent discontents which erupted, generating many questions and few answers, many uncertainties and few clarifications. And if I said few answers, I not means to the aggressive responses of law of enforcement against protesters, used from the United States to Russia, and from London to Damascus or even to Beijing.

This year 42 journalists, more or less known, have lost their lives while trying to do their job professionally. Among those who left shockingly and prematurely included the British-American photojournalist Tim Hetherington, renowned photographer and co-director with Sebastian Junger of the documentary Restrepo (2010). Tim Hetherington was killed near town Misrata, during the civil war between opponents of the Gaddafi regime and its supporters.

Year of political and economic crisis

The eurozone’s future hung in the balance, the US saw its credit rating downgraded, Japan’s earthquake rocked financial markets and fiscal failings forced out two prime ministers. Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and his Greek counterpart received “read card”. Also, many political players from Middle East (Syria, Yemen, Jordan), Europe and Russia received “yellow card” for low efficiency of crisis management and it is possible that the debt maturity to come in 2012. In spring, with the world looking for firm financial leadership, Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested in New York on sexual assault allegations, forcing his resignation as the head of the International Monetary Fund (the charges are subsequently dropped). Later the charges were withdrawn. The episode remains controversial. In autumn, the tension between the US and China over international trade escalates when Beijing imposes additional duties on cars imported from the United States. In change, Russia was admitted into the World Trade Organisation on Friday after 18 years of negotiation, finally binding it into the global economy two decades after the Soviet Union collapsed. EU leaders agree a “fiscal compact” after David Cameron vetoed a revision of the Lisbon treaty. And the year ends with a happy new year message from the IMF: the world, warns Lagarde, is at serious risk of sliding into a 1930s-style slump. But I think that it will keep happening and each time it will get worse and worse, because there is no answer to this present crisis if we continue with the failed economics of Milton Friedman and the free market gang. More, everything we have seen from 2008 to present was just the socialization of financial risk, but not profits too, and the politicians are «shy» when it comes to discussion about the bankers, those that support their political adventure.

Some dictatorship breakdown – the global police stat rises

But 2011 was also a year when humanity has escaped to some dictators. True, it remains questionable the lack of principles and functional hypocrisy of the same countries that have contributed to the fall of Egypt – Mubarak and Libya – Gaddafi regimes, after decades when they accepted the two dictators because it suited their interests.

Unfortunately, the democratization of these countries started with the left and the first results prove to be disastrous. Will see, in 2012 and beyond, how will be build a democracy with representative government, a free press, and an independent judiciary? Unlikely. More, Libyan “soap-opera” has provided opportunity to the regime in Damascus to justify unspeakable abuses against Syrian protesters. It’s still hard to discern between the repression of a criminal regime and the «help» received to destabilize Syria and justification for external intervention. In addition, after  Libyan adventure more and more shadows seem to imply in relations between major political actors  U.S., Russia and China.

At the end of the year, North Korea finally escaped to Kim Jong-Il. Natural. But how appear the things in space of communist – monarchy in Pyongyang, only to replace one dictator with another.

Watching the images of the funeral of Kim Jong-Il, any Western citizen wondered how such a thing possible. The answer has several components: time, fear, limits of human and citizen rights, ideological indoctrination. Basic tools of any police and dictatorial state. And if you think that this can happen only in Korea or Iran, I say to you, think again. Let′s speak a little about police stat, first step of any authoritarian regime. In fact, Syria is the leading exponent of the police state. But the same type of reaction (it is true to a lower level) can be seen in all countries where the authorities are facing with the discontent of the population. Take a look to the authorities of your country ! When they are no solutions, they will hide their incompetence under various pretexts – all generating fear and insecurity: the fall of the euro, the nuclear threat, terrorists, national security (basically just the security of their own pockets), unemployment, austerity. Team Obama’s press briefing about the ongoing saga of the Nigerian underwear bomber. Obama’s is clearly trying to cultivate a fear of Al-Qaeda while simultaneously building blind trust in his government. After the President’s remarks, his Homeland Security Secretary and Deputy National Security Advisor took the stage to unveil a series of proposals to ‘improve security’. After the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq (in a lost battle, despite the official statements), President Obama needs a new enemy on which to focus the attention of his voters. It could be Iran, Al-Qaeda or whatever. All what it is important is to cultivate your fear and deflect you attention from the disaster produced by the fat cats on Wall Street. In the same times, according The Moscow Times, the top three individual words used by mass-media from Russia in 2011 are полиция (police), рокировка (castling, job swap at the top) and альфа-самец (alpha male). And Russia has a favorite enemy meant to scare and to justify the cost of weapons: American anti-missile shield. The examples could continue. Therefore, 2012 will be a year when many countries will have parliamentary and presidential elections and I think it is good to think seriously about who you give your vote. Perhaps it is time to remind politicians that we want to live in a world of normal, healthy principles and values​​. According FT, in politics field, “2012 will be driven by tactics and electoral timing. The great revolt will come later. Next year, tactically adept incumbents may survive by offering stability at a time of chaos. Their chances are particularly high if they can identify with the pain of their citizens more effectively than weak challengers”. I think that the chance of citizens is to think. It does not cost. Not yet !

Dimitrovgrad Apocalypse – Kudrin resigned

Monday should be a new Apocalypse? Well, was one… to Dimitrovgrad (Volga).

After the replacing of Mikhail Prokhorov in composition of the Commission for Modernization, Innovation and Technological Development of Russia’s Economy (the presidential decree was published Sunday on the website of the Russian Presidency), new week began under the auspices of not very peaceful. Within the framework of the 26th meeting of the Presidential Commission mentioned above, President Medvedev – in an access of recovery dignity (lost Saturday at the Congress of United Russia party) and that would have deserved a better

Meeting of the Commission for Modernization and Technological Development of Russia’s Economy

cause – sharply warned Vice-premier and Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin and ordered him to resign if he continued to disagree over economic policy. In reply, Alexei Kudrin, disciplined this time :), a few hours later resigned… After all, according Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov, Kudrin will remain in Putin’s team … team that in May 2012 will move  to the Kremlin and will supervise activity of Prime Minister Medvedev’s government. Government that will have to take many unpopular measures that are needed, but normally will be postponed until after elections. Medvedev’s approach was a non-constructive, useless and more likely to turn against him.

So a brief recap: After Saturday’s announce about Putin – Medvedev rocade, Mr Kudrin (in the United States at the G20 meeting works) said in a press statement that “he could not serve in a new government next year if, as expected, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Mr Medvedev switch roles and he could not serve under Mr Medvedev if he becomes prime minister because of differences over budgetary policy” – said AP. Monday, president Medvedev not hidden their disapproval and pointed with his finger to Mr. Kudrin: “If, Alexei Leonidovich [Kudrin], you disagree with the course of the president, there is only one course of action and you know it: to resign. This is the proposal I make to you. You need to decide quickly what to do and give me an answer today” Mr Medvedev said. Mr Kudrin said he would consult with Prime Minister Putin. Later, he offered his resignation and it was quickly accepted.

Medvedev’s televised speech can be watch here.

So, that might be even more important move then Saturday’s Putin’s decision to run for the third term. Alexei Kudrin has been Finance Minister of Russia in the last 11 years, during the mandate of Putin and Medvedev presidency. It is considered a professional, with excellent relations both among bankers on Wall Street and the world of European finance. Although excellent relations with Prime Minister Putin, his relations with Mr Medvedev had been strained for some time. Recent he criticised the president’s plans to increase military spending. In my opinion should not be a specialist to notice that in times of crisis such a priority does not sound good. But politics has other reasons sometimes less visible.

Russia Finance chief resigned generated a lot of conflicting opinions. Mass media, social networking, renowned experts and politicians have said opinions. Of course, not without speculation. It spoke that public conflict between President Dmitry Medvedev and Minister Kudrin in fact has exposed deep cracks in unity over Vladimir Putin’s plan to return to the Kremlin. Most government and Kremlin officials kept a low profile on Monday. None rushed to side with Kudrin. But the presidential aide Arkady Dvorkovich wrote on Twitter: “Kudrin did much good for Russia, was one of my teachers. In the current situation, a decision was not, the reasons the President called”. There were some who argued that Kudrin’s departure is good news and it will escape Russia to the domination of  Wall Street′s bankers. I am not specialist in finance and economics … but I cannot believe that a fool can remain in office minister 11 years, even if talk of Russia. “Mr Kudrin’s resignation will worry foreign investors, who have praised his handling of Russia’s economy” says the BBC’s Steve Rosenberg in Moscow. “Putin seems to have decided that Kudrin’s head was a price to be paid to ensure his smooth succession back to the presidency,” said Timothy Ash, emerging markets economist at Royal Bank of Scotland. “The market will now fear that relative fiscal prudence, for which Kudrin was seen as a linchpin, will go out of the window.” Julia Tsepliaeva, Chief Economist Russia and CIS for BNP Paribas, said Kudrin’s departure could lead to populist government spending and quickly run down the rainy-day fund. “In addition, the dismissal of the strongest representative of the liberal economic wing of the government may result in the strengthening of the ‘siloviki’ (security forces) influence” she said. “It is difficult to see how Mr. Kudrin’s resignation can be anything but market-negative” said Neil Shearing, chief emerging markets economist at Capital Economics Ltd in London. “With oil prices starting to slide and financial markets still jittery, now is not a good time for the government to lose its arch fiscal hawk.”

Of course, there are many questions. In some of them will find answers, others may not. It said that Kudrin, a close Putin ally who appeared to be frustrated at not being offered the premiership under the succession plan, was left with little option but to resign. Ok. Moscow policy even can to offer surprises of double or triple the agreements. But Kudrin is not a child, is not a neophyte (like Prokhorov, par example). How did such an emotional reaction? (Update – 29 September 2011:In his first statement after resignation, former Russian finance minister Alexei Kudrin said that his decision was not an emotional reaction. “In connection with the numerous commentaries about my resignation, I would like to clarify the following. My statement about how I do not see myself in the Cabinet of 2012 (after the elections) was well-thought out and considered. First, over the course of several months, despite my numerous objections, including public ones, decisions were made in budget policy that without doubt raise the risks to the budget.  And risks to the budget linked most of all to inflated appropriations for defense and the social sector would inevitably spread to the entire national economy.” Full statement can be read here.)

Agreed that the president Medvedev was surprised and humiliated after Kudrin’s statement in Washington. But the change a minister with 11 years of experience when the capital markets are crazy, the statements of key political and financial players are more worrying and any day could collapse the world financial markets ?! …What is the most important for Russia President? Pride or wisdom?

Such policy disputes are rarely seen and spoken aloud in public in Russia, where political life is usually orchestrated at the highest level, the agreements are made behind the closed doors and open dissent over policy is unusual. But there are already two such scandals in just two weeks: Prokhorov vs Surkov, Medvedev vs Kudrin. What is the price of Russia’s future stability? And who pays in the end?…

and, finally, why smiling relaxed Mr. Surkov during the Kudrin’s «verbal execution» by President Medvedev ?? 😀