Archive for the 'Russia' Category

New Publication: “Regression of Democracy?”

Edited by Gero Erdmann and Marianne Kneuer, the special Issue of “Comparative Governance and Politics” (Zeitschrift für Vergleichende Politikwissenschaft) “Regression of Democracy?” was published in August 2011.

Back Cover Blurb:” Democratization since the implosion of the communist bloc displays a mixed balance. While the neo-democracies in Central Eastern European Countries can be seen as largely consolidated, many other processes of democratization in other parts of the world such as Africa, Asia and Latin America got stuck as unconsolidated or became defective democracies, some ‘regressed’ into hybrid regimes or were even turned into autocracies. While transitology dealt with the transition from authoritarian rule, the reverse process, the transition from democratic rule, remained almost completely outside the scholarly attention. This special issue will address the problems of the regression of democracy and aims at closing the gap between research on democracy and democratization on one side and the emergence of authoritarian regimes on the other. The contributions of this volume analyse the different phenomena in which decline of democracy fans out: the loss of quality, which means a silent regression; the backslide into hybrid regimes (hybridization); and the breakdown of democracy.”

My collegue Patricia Graf and I contributed one article on “Elections, Democratic Regression and Transitions to Autocracy: Lessons from Russia and Venezuela” which tries to illuminate the role and functions of elections in different systemic contexts and transitory regimes.  Also, democratic regression and transitions to autocracy are  topics I deal with since several years and have taught two seminars in 2010 and 2011. Even though there are lots of new insight, research still has to be done in this field. The volume presented above is one attempt to close some of the gaps…

  • Erdmann, Gero / Kneuer, Marianne (eds.) Regression of Democracy? Comparative Governance and Politics, Special Issue 1/2011, Wiesbaden:VS-Verlag, ISBN 978-3-531-18216-2, 265 pages.

electoral seismographs I

I had the opportunity to talk with Prof. Busygina, an expert on federalism and the economies of space at the MGIMO yesterday. We discussed the question of elections in Russia very briefly, but verz fruitful. There are four major points, that can be considered the results of this meeting. First, it is easy to run elections when there is no real opposition and therefore the chance of a defeat of the party of power is very little. Second, she told me about serious rumours that United Russia probably will experience a schism. This, in my opinion, might partly happen because the experiment of Just Russia did not work. Third, Prof. Busygina pointed out that the most important development of the last years was that there are less elections that ever since the elections of the governors were abolished. And last, not least, I asked her what she thinks the functions of parties and elections in Russia are. The answer was a little more complex, but I will briefly summarize it: People are really habitualized to elections as even the Soviet System held elections. The difference today is that they have a choice, and that there is an opposition, even if it is compliant with the system. I argued  that elections probably are the only possibility for the elites to stay in touch with the electorate and probably have the function of a political seismograph and, after thinking about it, she agreed. Even though there are a lot of opinion polls, there is little credible information passing from the bottom to the top because of the huge problem of social desirability researchers have to deal with in Russia. Apparently, she said, people first look at you to estimate what the interviewers expectations are, and then they adjust their answer. But as they are habitualized to elections and now have the possibility to choose where to make their cross, the percentage of the party of power and of the other parties serves as a good indicator for the satisfaction of the electorate with the (national or local) government, at least in the urban regions. This is a very interesting argument.  It will be interesting to do further research and fieldstudies on this pattern of what i call “electoral seismography”.

Putin to become Chairman of Edinaja Rossija

Another interesting turn in the russian merry-go-round: President Putin announced to accept the proposal of president elect Dmitri Medvedev to become Chairman of Edinaja Rossija after resigning on Mai 7th. One could arguethat this was a foreseeable move. But what is interesting about this, is that Putin will become the leader as a non-party-member. This might be interpretet as the next step of Edinaja Rossija towards becoming an all-russian movement somewhat in the tradition of the former CPSU, but with a substantial difference: The new ideology is neither totalitarian nor inspired by communism. It rather is what some analysts call etatist turbo capitalism or neo-liberalism. With the chairmen of Gazprom, Dmitri Medvedev and Alexei Miller, and the future leader of Edinaja Rossija, Vladimir Putin, the most exposed men control the most important posts in the country. This strategy fits well into what I would analyze as authoritarian consolidation. One main factor in this strategy seems to be the institutionalization of informal politics and networking to raise the capacity of the state to demobilize the people, civic society and oppositions.

Formal Institutions and Informal Politics in Central and Eastern Europe

The second – and affordable paperback – Edition of Formal Institutions and Informal Politics… has been published recently. This volume gives an introductory insight into the title-giving relationship between 1989 and 2005. It comprises a systematic explication of central concepts, analyses the character and main mechanisms of informal politics as performed by power elites as well as the personalisation of politics. Being rather free from norm-driven evaluations up to this point, the authors rise the question of democratic legitimacy in the context of national political cultures and their legacies.

Probably the volume could have produced more fruitful insights, if the authors had set the democratic legitimacy-aspect aside, but nevertheless the book is an excellent introduction into the informal politics debate. In addition, there are four very good case studies. Conclusion: Buy the book, if you are interested in informal politics and/or CEE

  • Gerd Meyer (ed.) (2008): Formal Institutions and Informal Politics in Central and Eastern Europe. Hungary, Poland, Russia and Ukraine. 2nd, revised edition. Opladen: Barbara Budrich Publishers. ISBN: 978-3-86649-147, 29,90€

Quelle Surprise – it’s Medvedjev!

As 99,73% of votes are proceeded – some call it counted – by now, one can hardly imagine that there will be any change in the results: Political engineering and Image making in Russia, whether legal or not, has provided 70,24% victory to Dmitrij Medvedjev in the presidential elections. The result is not really surprising. More important is the fact that voter turnout (about 69%) was considerably higher than in the 2004 elections.

This might be valued as a strong legitimation for Medvedjev. But this also means that out of the about 109 Million eligible voters, only 48% voted for Medvedjev, while 30%+ didn’t vote at all and the rest selected another candidate. What this fact really indicates is that the candidates were able to mobilize their following. Taking into account theb results of political opinion research the results of nationalist Zhirinovski (9,36%) and communist Zyuganov (17,75%) come very close to their real potential. Most of the non-voter then seem to have withdrawn from politics because of the predictable outcomes.

But will there be a new direction of russian politics? We strongly disbelieve the moderate optimism in western politics. The designated president stated that he will – together with a Prime Minister Putin – continue the work of his predecessor. Even if there will be no new distribution of power between those two institutions (as Medvedjev indicated today), the influence of the Prime Minister will probably stay rather high. And, by the way, as all pc-owners, might know: never change a running system. For Russia the current configuration of the clearly authoritarian political system seems to run pretty well.

But it is much too early to give an in-depth analysis, even though many journalists and even political scientists will come up with such in the next few days and weeks. In our opinion, one at least has to a 100-day period to get a closer idea of what path of development Russia will chose in the Future.