Is Putin “Overstaying” In Power?

Originally posted to Instablogs (June 11, 2008)

Critics of Russia’s Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, can on occasion impress us with a vitriolic tirade – usually articulated in a rude language – but not with the common sense or the knowledge of basic facts.  Take, for example, a self-proclaimed Russia “expert”, Anders Aslund.  For years, Dr. Aslund has preached the imminent collapse of the “criminal Putin regime” before the end of Putin’s second presidency.  But in September of last year, Aslund suddenly changed the tune and forecast that Putin will remain in the office indefinitely by "possibly following declaration of a national military emergency."  Go figure.

The fact that 55-year-old, healthy, fit and energetic Putin – who, by the way, is a full 5 years away from the official retirement age – didn’t go fishing after completing his 2 terms as president, seems to be especially upsetting to his critics.  They interpret this as yet more evidence of Putin’s “authoritarian” instinct and, more generally, as proof that Putin’s Russia has become an “autocracy.”

The logic of the last claim deserves consideration.  It implies that leaders of “authoritarian regimes” stay in power indefinitely, whereas heads of “true” democracies behave like comets in the sky: a brisk moment and they are gone, so that the voters cannot even remember their faces.

The problem with this logic is that it contradicts reality.  For example, what do these 10 countries – Belgium, Denmark, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Norway, Spain, Sweden, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom – have in common?  Well, they all are prosperous Western Europe democracies.  True, but they are also monarchies, meaning that the heads of state – Kings, Queens, Grand Dukes, or Princes – acquire and retain power not by elections, but by hereditary succession.

Come on, some would argue, the monarchs in these countries have no real power. True enough, yet in Belgium, Denmark, and the Netherlands, the Monarch appoints prime minister following a parliamentary election.

Gotcha, some readers would say.  Here is the key: the prime ministers.  Those guys are elected and they rotate frequently.  Do they really?  Former British Primer Minister, Tony Blair, has stayed “in power” for more than 10 years (compared to Putin’s 8 years and 1+ month) and then turned the reign to a hand-picked successor, Gordon Brown.  In contrast to Putin’s successor, Dmitry Medvedev, who has been elected in a direct popular vote, Mr. Brown hasn’t been elected by anyone, except for a bunch of Labor Party apparatchiks.   

Oh, those are monarchies.  What about European “republics”?  Here comes Jacques Chirac, who has been President of France for 12 years, not counting 2 two-year stints as Prime Minister and 18 years as Mayor of Paris.  And how about Urho Kekkonen who served twice as Prime Minister of Finland (for about 6 years total) before becoming the country’s President for the next 26(!) years.  Aren’t France and Finland “perfect” democracies?

For some, perhaps, not perfect enough.  They would frown upon aging “Old Europe” and argue that the “real” democracy is possible only “on this side of the Pond.”

OK, let’s check facts again.  As pointed out by Hendrik Hertzberg (“Dynastic Voyage”, The New Yorker, Oct 29, 2007), forty percent of Americans have never lived when there wasn’t a Bush or a Clinton in the White House.  If Hillary Clinton had been elected and reelected – thank God, she won’t — the nation could have gone 28 years in a row with the same two families governing the country (36 with the elder Bush’s vice-presidency).  And make no mistake: this isn’t about a persona in the Oval Office; this is about powerful special interests running the country from behind, be it oil companies or teachers unions.

And then, there is, of course, Chelsea Clinton.

In all fairness to the Bushes and the Clintons, they come on the heels of Adams’s, Harrisons, and Roosevelts.  And then there were/are Tafts, Kennedys, Lodges, Bays, Cuomos, Daleys, Dodds, and Romneys who have made it to the White House only once or haven’t made it at all (for now).

And then, there are five U.S. Senators whose dads were Senators before them.  And then, there is Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, whose dad was a congressman.  (Of the 244 women who have served in the House and the Senate, 46 succeeded their husbands and 12 their fathers.)

One wouldn’t call it monarchy, of course; however, elements of “hereditary succession” are hard to miss.

Coming back to Putin and his critics.  For as long as Putin has the desire to serve his country and enjoys solid public support, he should stay in politics.  Those who jealously count every year of his political career would be better to look closer to home.

    

About Eugene Ivanov

Eugene Ivanov is a PMI-certified Innovation Management Consultant who helps organizations increase the efficiency of their internal and external innovation programs.
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Is Putin “Overstaying” In Power?

Originally posted to Instablogs (June 11, 2008)

Critics of Russia’s Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, can on occasion impress us with a vitriolic tirade – usually articulated in a rude language – but not with the common sense or the knowledge of basic facts.  Take, for example, a self-proclaimed Russia “expert”, Anders Aslund.  For years, Dr. Aslund has preached the imminent collapse of the “criminal Putin regime” before the end of Putin’s second presidency.  But in September of last year, Aslund suddenly changed the tune and forecast that Putin will remain in the office indefinitely by "possibly following declaration of a national military emergency."  Go figure.

The fact that 55-year-old, healthy, fit and energetic Putin – who, by the way, is a full 5 years away from the official retirement age – didn’t go fishing after completing his 2 terms as president, seems to be especially upsetting to his critics.  They interpret this as yet more evidence of Putin’s “authoritarian” instinct and, more generally, as proof that Putin’s Russia has become an “autocracy.”

The logic of the last claim deserves consideration.  It implies that leaders of “authoritarian regimes” stay in power indefinitely, whereas heads of “true” democracies behave like comets in the sky: a brisk moment and they are gone, so that the voters cannot even remember their faces.

The problem with this logic is that it contradicts reality.  For example, what do these 10 countries – Belgium, Denmark, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Norway, Spain, Sweden, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom – have in common?  Well, they all are prosperous Western Europe democracies.  True, but they are also monarchies, meaning that the heads of state – Kings, Queens, Grand Dukes, or Princes – acquire and retain power not by elections, but by hereditary succession.

Come on, some would argue, the monarchs in these countries have no real power. True enough, yet in Belgium, Denmark, and the Netherlands, the Monarch appoints prime minister following a parliamentary election.

Gotcha, some readers would say.  Here is the key: the prime ministers.  Those guys are elected and they rotate frequently.  Do they really?  Former British Primer Minister, Tony Blair, has stayed “in power” for more than 10 years (compared to Putin’s 8 years and 1+ month) and then turned the reign to a hand-picked successor, Gordon Brown.  In contrast to Putin’s successor, Dmitry Medvedev, who has been elected in a direct popular vote, Mr. Brown hasn’t been elected by anyone, except for a bunch of Labor Party apparatchiks.   

Oh, those are monarchies.  What about European “republics”?  Here comes Jacques Chirac, who has been President of France for 12 years, not counting 2 two-year stints as Prime Minister and 18 years as Mayor of Paris.  And how about Urho Kekkonen who served twice as Prime Minister of Finland (for about 6 years total) before becoming the country’s President for the next 26(!) years.  Aren’t France and Finland “perfect” democracies?

For some, perhaps, not perfect enough.  They would frown upon aging “Old Europe” and argue that the “real” democracy is possible only “on this side of the Pond.”

OK, let’s check facts again.  As pointed out by Hendrik Hertzberg (“Dynastic Voyage”, The New Yorker, Oct 29, 2007), forty percent of Americans have never lived when there wasn’t a Bush or a Clinton in the White House.  If Hillary Clinton had been elected and reelected – thank God, she won’t — the nation could have gone 28 years in a row with the same two families governing the country (36 with the elder Bush’s vice-presidency).  And make no mistake: this isn’t about a persona in the Oval Office; this is about powerful special interests running the country from behind, be it oil companies or teachers unions.

And then, there is, of course, Chelsea Clinton.

In all fairness to the Bushes and the Clintons, they come on the heels of Adams’s, Harrisons, and Roosevelts.  And then there were/are Tafts, Kennedys, Lodges, Bays, Cuomos, Daleys, Dodds, and Romneys who have made it to the White House only once or haven’t made it at all (for now).

And then, there are five U.S. Senators whose dads were Senators before them.  And then, there is Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, whose dad was a congressman.  (Of the 244 women who have served in the House and the Senate, 46 succeeded their husbands and 12 their fathers.)

One wouldn’t call it monarchy, of course; however, elements of “hereditary succession” are hard to miss.

Coming back to Putin and his critics.  For as long as Putin has the desire to serve his country and enjoys solid public support, he should stay in politics.  Those who jealously count every year of his political career would be better to look closer to home.

    

About Eugene Ivanov

Eugene Ivanov is a PMI-certified Innovation Management Consultant who helps organizations increase the efficiency of their internal and external innovation programs.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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