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#10 - JRL 7226
Novaya Gazeta
No 42
June 16-18, 2003
THE MOTHERLAND AS NOBODY'S GRANNY
Nobody is responsible for the national economy
Author: Andrei Piontkovsky
[from WPS Monitoring Agency, www.wps.ru/e_index.html]

PLENARY MEETING OF THE DUMA WILL CONSIDER A VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE IN THE GOVERNMENT THIS WEEK.

THE MODEL OF RUSSIAN CAPITALISM BUILT UNDER BORIS YELTSIN AND FORTIFIED UNDER VLADIMIR PUTIN IS MUCH TOO FLAWED TO PROVIDE A STABLE ECONOMIC GROWTH OR A BREAKTHROUGH INTO POST-INDUSTRIAL SOCIETY

The atmosphere is quite fitting. The parliament has to bring up the matter to save face. The model of Russian capitalism built under Boris Yeltsin and fortified under Vladimir Putin is much too flawed to provide a stable economic growth or a breakthrough into post- industrial society. Mikhail Kasyanov's government personifies all typical features of capitalism. It took literally years of scandals in the media before the regime finally sacked odious Yevgeny Adamov and Nikolai Aksenenko, the ministers who transformed their departments into private businesses. Firstly, they stepped down with impunity, retaining clout and power in their empires. Secondly, their behavior in the government may have been much too extravagant but actually typical of the Kasyanov's Cabinet.

The vote of no confidence was initiated by Yabloko and communist factions. It will be interesting and illustrative to gauge the reaction of other political parties represented in the Duma.

The foursome power party that built its strategy around criticism of the government is in a tight fix. Leaders of the power party castigate the Cabinet whose ministers are members of the power party itself.

Voting confidence in the government will put an end to the election strategy. Voting no confidence without the Kremlin's approval is unthinkable.

The Union of Right Forces is facing a problem of its own. Competing with Yabloko for the traditional democratic electorate, the Union of Right Forces cannot back up Yabloko's initiative by definition.

Union leaders say that the Cabinet is not that bad because "it has been implementing numerous progressive ideas of the Union of Right Forces." On the other hand, the government is horrible indeed but can it truly be blamed for what it is? The government is but a cog in the executive power structure system, a "charwoman" to quote Boris Nemtsov. The true evil is in the presidential administration. It is the general director who has to be criticized, not the charwoman, but Yabloko is too meek to contemplate such an idea.

All these arguments are not entirely convincing. Vote of no confidence in the government is the only political instrument the parliament may use to challenge the executive branch of the government including the president.

As for Yabloko, it has never needed much prompting to castigate the policy of the regime in the economic sphere, in the Chechen conflict, and with regard to the media.

It is all the more strange to hear Yabloko castigated for meekness by the party who made it to the Duma under the slogan "Putin for President, Kirienko for Duma", the party that announced that "the Russian army is being revived in Chechnya and everybody who thinks otherwise is a traitor", the party whose death squad of Kokh and Jordan cleaned up NTV.

Nemtsov is undoubtedly correct about thing. Where responsibility to society is concerned, Kasyanov's government with its cozy niche in our constitutional system and the title of "technical" is truly a charwoman. But where is the general director then? Where is somebody we may ask about the level of capitalization?

The president in our system is a divine figure responsible for foreign policy, security, and such spheres. His references to economic matters are made once a year; mostly restricted to the demands for more ambitions and doubling of the GDP. Nobody has bothered to explain if the doubling is to be accomplished in seven years (see page 12 of the presidential address) or in a decade (page 19).

As a result, where the economy is concerned we have an irresponsible government and an irresponsible president. I do not mean Kasyanov and Putin personally, I mean subjects of power specified by the Constitution and the traditions of its application.

Russia is a presidential republic when the matter concerns foreign policy and security, and nobody's republic where economy is concerned. It is hardly surprising therefore that "jackals are tearing Russia's economy apart", to quote Presidential Advisor Andrei Illarionov. They cannot help it, the republic is nobody's. The vote of no confidence should apply to Cabinet members and the existing system of irresponsibility.

Will the political establishment find a way out? And let us dismiss all speculations on the conspiracy of some oligarchs who are out to dismiss Putin and proclaim a parliamentary republic or about Putin's intention to play the role of the premier in the parliamentary republic after 2008.

We do not have a system of political parties in Russia, and the parliamentary republic idea will not work. We should probably try the American system where the president is head of the Cabinet and is responsible (for the national economy too) while the parliament wields much broader controlling functions.

(Translated by A. Ignatkin)

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