#8 - JRL 7180
May 13, 2003
"I THINK PUTIN IS TO BE BLAMED" POLITICAL SCIENTIST GEORGY SATAROV CRITICIZES VLADIMIR PUTIN FOR INERTIA
Author: Mikhail Rostovsky
[from WPS Monitoring Agency, www.wps.ru/e_index.html]
AN INTERVIEW WITH POLITICAL SCIENTIST GEORGY SATAROV.
IT WOULD BE WRONG TO ASSUME THAT THE CURRENT DISCORD AROUND THE GOVERNMENT IS JUST A FORERUNNER OF UPCOMING FUNDAMENTAL CHANGES IN DOMESTIC POLITICS. PUTIN'S POLITICAL STABILITY AND HIGH RATING ARE VIEWED AS A GIVEN. WILL THIS STATE OF AFFAIRS LAST? WILL PUTIN'S SECOND TERM IN OFFICE BE LIKE HIS FIRST PRESIDENTIAL TERM? ... HERE IS AN INTERVIEW WITH POLITICAL SCIENTIST GEORGY SATAROV, ONCE A POLITICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BORIS YELTSIN.
Question: Are there prerequisites for radical changes in the upper levels of power in the country? How can we appraise preliminary results of the Putin - Kasyanov tandem?
Georgy Satarov: Generally speaking, the results are quite modest. Unfortunately. There is the opinion that Putin's presidency is the era of lost opportunities. Particularly in economics. Very little was done to support economic growth when the domestic and foreign situations were so benign.
Question: And who is to be blamed for the failures, the president or the Cabinet?
Georgy Satarov: Putin, I think. He is guilty to the very extent to which he has concentrated power in his own hands. He is guilty to the extent that he replaced the strategy of civilian institutions formation with the strategy of bureaucratic apparatus enlargement. At the same time, it was absolute naivety to think that the corrupt and ineffective bureaucratic apparatus would start working properly.
Question: Do you think dramatic changes in the government before the elections are possible?
Georgy Satarov: Petty wars for influence in the government never end. Representatives of various groups come to Pn. His reaction never varies. He tells everybody that yes, something should be done about it. And nothing is ever done. We cannot rule out the possibility therefore that some group or clan will decide on a different tactic.
I do not really think that Putin needs it. I mean serious changes in the upper echelons. Resignation of the Cabinet is a serious gesture. He has to cherish the government, at least for the moment of his triumph in the race. Something like "I begin my new term in office and embark on a new course. Time to do something". That sort of thing. Because the Russians are already grumbling that he talks too much, with little, if anything to show for it...
Question: Some experts are of the opinion that resignation of the government would help United Russia win the parliamentary election.
Georgy Satarov: Even were the government sacked, the country will attribute it to the president in any case. Moreover, United Russia's chances to win a constitutional majority in the next Duma are minimal. After all, few if anybody - save for party leaders - want its triumph in the election. I'm not sure, for example, that so serious a force as the governors wants United Russia to win.
Besides, all groups close to Putin are already thinking in terms of the 2008 election. Every clan up there has some bitter experience to ponder over. Putin does not rely on anyone entirely, and I do not doubt that he will remain true to this habit during his second presidency. That is why every clan and group that there is will try to promote its own candidate for president in 2008. Promotion campaigns may actually begin right after the 2004 election. Do competing clans need a strong president under the circumstances? I doubt it.
Question: What are the chances of radical reforms during Putin's second term in office?
Georgy Satarov: Unfortunately, these chances are minimal. Putin has failed to form a powerful and adequate team in his three years at the pinnacle of political power. When the presidential election is over, he may choose one of the three following options in the matter of personnel. Choice one: he may choose some clan to support and "drive out" all the rest. Choice two: he may sack absolutely everybody and replace them with new men. Choice three: he may preserve the status quo. Judging by his actions over the last three years, what option do you think he will choose? The status quo!
There is one other instrumental factor we should not dismiss. The Americans have a term for presidents in their last term in office. They call them lame ducks. Putin will become a lame duck right after the 2004 election. His capacity to do something radical will seriously diminish.
Question: Is it possible to say that the politician who becomes the Prime Minister in 2004 will have the best chance for presidency in 2008?
Georgy Satarov: No. It is a habit with the Russians to place responsibility for the situation in the country on the government and not on the national leader. It is the Prime Minister who will be blamed for everything.
Besides, I reckon that some compromise figure, someone who suits absolutely everyone and will be just as easily sacrificed, will become the Prime Minister in 2004.
Question: What will the mechanism of succession be like in 2008?
Georgy Satarov: Most probably, Putin will not stake on any single figure (he never does). He may merely say: I've done what I could, everything is up to you now. And the warring clans will continue their endless wars.
On the other hand, Putin just may say that he perceives this or that politician as his successor. Will this person be elected? It will depend on whether or not Putin retains his rating by the end of his presidency. It is unlikely. Clans close to Putin are dissatisfied with the president. Every clan considers itself unfairly treated. And when all the clans promote their own candidates, it is next to impossible for the lame duck to remain popular.
Question: Which forces will promote their candidates for president in 2008?
Georgy Satarov: There are some already known forces close to Putin. The list includes chekists from St. Petersburg, liberals from St. Petersburg, and the Family. In theory, two more forces may appear. I'm talking about major businesses and regional elites.
By the way, TV programs convince me that one candidate is already being promoted. You know who I mean. He is Boris Gryzlov. How boldly he says that corruption is everywhere! I'd like to ask him a question. Has it taken him two years as the Interior minister to find it out?
Question: What are all these fashionable speculations on governments of the parliamentary majority about?
Georgy Satarov: It is time we formed ourselves a government that knows what responsibility is. The question is overripe, and everybody with brains in the corridors of power is aware of that. The existing political system should be scrapped. The government is ineffective not because of weakness of the ministers as such, but because it is not independent and lacks a firm political foundation.
It is a different matter altogether that what models of a responsible government are suggested every now and then are actually much too shallow. Their implementation would not result in anything worth mentioning.
Question: Is it possible for some serious model to appear after the presidential election?
Georgy Satarov: For that, Putin will have to amend the scope and essence of his political powers. I'm not confident that he is ready for that. On the other hand, a substantial part of our political elite would have welcomed it. Political parties, for example, would have benefited greatly. For the time being, parties are but decorative trimmings for the political system, when in fact they aspire for more clout with the executive branch of the government.
Question: But you yourself say that political parties do not really matter because everything in Russia is decided elsewhere and through other agencies...
Georgy Satarov: These other agencies appear precisely because of the lack of legitimate means of exerting influence with the powers- that-be. I hear every now and then the assumption that we should postpone formation of a government of the parliamentary majority until after we have bona fide political parties. How can they appear? They do not have a stimulus for it! They will not appear. Neither the Constitution, nor the electoral system encourages their appearance. Everything works for preservation of parties in their current form of isolated political clubs.
Question: What exactly should be done in this respect?
Georgy Satarov: We should define the zones of political powers of the president and the government. The president is a political figure responsible for stability of the system. The parliament and the government it forms are responsible for the specific policy and its implementation. The citizens will know in this case that they vote for order in the country, when electing the president. And voting for parties, we choose the road the country will take.
We will have to amend the legislation pertaining to elections. Two options are possible here. Either a return to election from single-mandate districts only or a transition to a new proportional system. In this case, we will vote for specific men and women on party lists, not for lists themselves. What does it mean? A party announces that it is to be represented by this or that candidate in this particular district. The candidate makes it to the parliament, provided he or she polls the majority in the district.
Question: What about amendment of the Constitution so that all presidential powers are concentrated in the hands of the Prime Minister? Is it possible? So that Putin will become that Prime Minister in 2008?
Georgy Satarov: It is highly unlikely. Nobody needs it, not even Putin. His job is not easy, you know. I do not think he will want to keep it longer than necessary.