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Chapter 23

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Political Science
POLI 212
Hudson Meadwell

Chapter 23: Russia- Governance and Policymaking Organization of the State - Ratification of the new Russian constitution in 1993 was a touchy political process that followed a violent confrontation between the president and parliament. The process ended in a barely successful popular referendum on a document that reflected Yeltsin’s preferences. - The document affirms many principles of liberal democratic governance- competitive elections in a multiparty system, separation of powers, independent judiciary, federalism, and protection of individual civil liberties. However, a key feature is the strength of the president’s executive power. - The constitution also lays the groundwork for institutional conflict between governing structures. The Russian Federation (RF) inherited a complex structure of regional subunits from the Soviet period. - From 1991-93, negotiations between the central government and the various regions led to the establishment of a complicated federal structure with 89 federal units. Some of these demanded increased autonomy- even sovereignty- such a Chechnya, which led to a civil war. - The constitution makes the executive dominant but still dependent on the agreement of the legislative branch. - The executive has 2 heads: President and PM. - Poor salaries and lack of professionalism in the civil service have increased corruption and political influence on decision making - Some see Putin’s reforms as a reversion to practices of the Soviet period, namely centralization of power and obstacles to effective political competition. Others say these measures are necessary to solidify rule of law and the state’s capacity to govern. - Before Gorbachev’s reforms, top organs of the Communist Party (CPSU) dominated the state. In the CPSU structure, lower party bodies elected delegates to higher party organs, but these elections were uncontested and top organs determined candidates for the lower organs. The Politburo was the real decision- maker. The Central Committee rep. the political elite, including regional leaders and reps of various economic sectors. - People holding high state positions were appointed through the nomenklatura system, which allowed the CPSU to fill key posts with politically reliable people - In theory, Soviet state was governed by a constitution (1977). However, it was merely symbolic. With the power of appointment under party control, there couldn’t really be any legislative or judicial independence. When the constitution was violated, the courts had no independent authority to protect it. - The Soviet Union was a designated federal system- according to the constitution, certain powers were given to the 15 union republics (which are now independent states). But this was phony federalism, since all aspects of life were overseen by the centralized Communist Party. - Gorbachev began a process of radical institutional change through the introduction of competitive elections, increased pluralism, reduced Communist Party dominance, and renegotiation of the terms of Soviet federalism. Many constitutional amendments were adopted that altered existing political institutions. The Executive - The 1993 RF constitution establishes a semi-presidential system, formally resembling the French system but with even stronger executive power. The president holds primary power, is the head of state. The PM is appointed by the president but approved by the lower house of parliament (Duma) and is the head of government. The president oversees foreign policy, regional relations, and the organs of state security. The PM usually focuses on the economy and related issues. - The president is elected directly by the people every 4 years, with a constitutional limit of 2 consecutive terms. - One of the president’s most important powers is the authority to issue decrees. These decrees have the force of law until formal legislation is passed, but because they can be annulled quickly, they don’t have the same authority as actual laws. - The president can also call a state of emergency, impose martial law, grant pardons, call referenda, and temporarily suspend actions of state organs if he deems them to contradict the constitution or federal laws. He is also commander- in-chief of the armed forces - If the president dies in office, the PM fills the post until new elections can be held - Political scientist Henry Hale calls political systems like Russia’s patronal presidentialism. In such systems, power is rooted in the leader’s own personal authority, which is, in part, maintained through the transfer of benefits in exchange for political loyalty. The president’s authority is maintained by control of an extensive administrative apparatus. The Prime Minister and Cabinet - The Russian government is headed by the PM, underneath him are several deputy PMs. The president’s choice of PM must be approved by the Duma - The PM can be removed by the Duma through two repeat votes of no confidence passed within a 3 month period. - The PM has never been a member of the dominant party or coalition in the Duma, so principles of accountability that apply in most Western parliamentary systems don’t exist in Russia. Without this these formal links between parties and the executive branch, the process of gaining Duma acceptance of government proposals depends on the authority of the president and the particular configuration of power at the moment - Ministers other than the PM don’t need parliamentary approval. The PM makes recommendations to the president who appoints them. - Ministers in the government don’t represent political parties, so Russia doesn’t have a form of cabinet similar to that of the West. Though the government is accountable to the president and to some extent the Duma, its composition doesn’t reflect the outcome of Duma elections. - The relationship of the PM and President has more to do with personal accountability than partisan party affiliation The National Bureaucracy - The Russian bureaucracy isn’t very big by Western standards - The absence of civil service systems has meant that the selection, promotion, and evaluation of public services in the federal and regional bureaucracies haven’t been developed. Rather, the system has features of clientelism where patron-client networks continue to play a key role in state organs. This system underscores the importance of personal career ties between individuals as they rise in bureaucratic and political structures - The presidential administration serves the president directly. They are active in developing proposed legislation and government programs. The State Legal Office reviews all legislation before the president signs it. The Security Council advises the President in areas related to foreign policy and security. The State Council, which includes all regional heads, has a consultative role, but doesn’t give the regional executives any real power. - There have been efforts to improve the quality of public service. One is a 2004 law on the civil service. It introduces principles such as competitive appointments, conflict of interest regulations, etc. There was also a 2005 administrative reform, which sought to clarify functions of the executive organs and set public service standards - However, it’s been hard to implement these because of the lack of an independent agency to carry out the reform and a lack of transparency in government practices Public and Semipublic Institutions - Though there was a period of privatization in the 1990s, some companies are still state-owned, either by full state
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