Examined: How Putin keeps power l ABC News
Freedom House expert: &# 171; Putin no longer counts on support from the middle class&# 187;
Robert Orttung on the paradoxes of Vladimir Putin’s power
In the annual report of Freedom House for 2013 on rights and freedoms in various countries of the world, the situation in Russia is estimated at five and a half points. The Russian Federation is characterized as a “not free” country. In the section on the observance of civil rights, Russia received five points, in the section on political rights – six.
For comparison: Libya received a higher score this year than before: 4.5 points and the definition of a “partly free” country; Ukraine is also “partially free” with a score of 3.5 points: civil liberties there were rated three points, and political ones – four.
The Voice of America correspondent spoke with Professor Robert Orttung – Freedom House’s leading expert on the Russian Federation and the author of the section on Russia in the report.
In particular, the report states that “Russia is not a representative democracy.” When asked to clarify what Russia is, Orttung replied: “It is difficult for me to give a positive definition – but this is by no means a democracy, not even the so-called "managed democracy". After the 2011 Duma elections "United Russia" received less than half of the votes, Putin realized that if the elections reflected the opinion of the people, then he could lose. And he decided to change the electoral system. Formally, there are elections, but they cannot be called free and fair “.
Professor Orttung says that Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a sense, found himself in a paradoxical position.
On the one hand, power in the country is concentrated in his hands, but on the other, it has many restrictions. Given the current situation in the country, he cannot simply take and leave his post, because there will certainly be someone who will demand his arrest. Putin is afraid, he is simply stuck in this situation. He cannot change the system, although sometimes he is able to oppose specific representatives of the authorities, such as the Minister of Defense. But in general, all these anti-corruption measures are nothing more than a show
Robert Orttung, professor, leading expert of Freedom House on the Russian Federation and the author of the section on Russia in the report
“On the one hand, the power in the country is concentrated in his hands, but on the other, it has many restrictions. – notes Orttung – Given the current situation in the country, he cannot just take and leave his post, because there will certainly be someone who will demand his arrest. Putin is afraid, he is simply stuck in this situation. He cannot change the system, although sometimes he is able to oppose specific representatives of the authorities, such as the Minister of Defense. But in general, all these anti-corruption measures are nothing more than a show … “.
According to the expert, the decline in the ratings of the Russian leader is “a natural result of being in power for too long”: “I think Putin is fully aware that he is losing the support of the middle class, and judging by his rhetoric, he is not trying to regain it, focusing on more provincial , to the nationalist-minded public, which is targeted by anti-American slogans “.
Orttung admits that many members of the middle class in Russia are quite satisfied with the current system, and they credit him with the stabilization of the situation in the country: “One can argue about the advantages and disadvantages of the resource-based economy, but when the 2008 crisis came, thanks to "oil" money, the Russian government had a significant reserve of money – so the Kremlin makes very reasonable decisions. But in general, there is a feeling that the middle class is more interested in influencing political decisions “.
Orttung stresses that despite the fact that at this stage there is no feeling that there is a well-coordinated opposition movement in the country – largely due to the authorities’ attempts to “crush” the protest – an active civil society is gradually forming in Russia..
“I don’t think it would be realistic to predict that serious political changes will take place in a year or two – rather, they will have to wait 10-20 years. Says Orttung. “But Putin is very worried about the opposition. After the start of his new presidential term, new repressive measures were taken against NGOs and demonstrators. At the same time, the ideas of the opposition are beginning to find a response in society. Today the president is strong and the opposition is weak – but activists today have more opportunities to exchange ideas. Russian civil society has a serious potential, its power is growing, although this process is hardly noticeable from outside. “.
Speaking about how the relations of the new administration of President Barack Obama with Moscow will develop, Professor Orttung suggested that they will be quite tense, although pragmatism and interests will remain critical.
“Our ability to influence the human rights situation in Russia is limited. Steps like "Magnitsky law", no doubt they have weight – it was not in vain that he caused such an emotional reaction from the Putin regime. But Russian officials want to maintain normal business relations with the West, go to the forum in Davos, and be considered a legitimate player. And the United States will need Russia’s help in the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. There will be attempts to cooperate in areas of common interest. However, the decision of Russia to impose a ban on the adoption of children by American citizens, the requirement that NPOs receiving financial assistance from abroad register as “foreign agents” – all this will limit contacts between Russians and Americans, “summarizes Robert Orttung.
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