About Putin and democracy

Avec le soutien de
The Russian President Vladimir Putin

In response to Nad Sivaramen’s editorial

About Vladimir Putin’s leadership

We have read the editorial entitled as “La transparence, la nudité et le pouvoir” by Nad Sivaramen, published in the issue of January 19, 2020.  The author, in particular, gives an appraisal of the latest initiatives of the Russian President Vladimir Putin to reform the government in Russia. We disagree with such superficial understanding of processes taking place in our  country.In spite  of  that,  he tries to match the facts to his message running through the article as a consistent thread that power ought to belong to the people and not to the rulers.

 The Ambassador of Russia in Mauritius Konstantin Klimovskiy

Giving an example of a bad ruler, the author specifically refers to the head of the Russian state and asserts that the initiated redistribution of powers is driven solely by the Russian President’s ambition to stay on after 2024. In the author’s opinion, the purpose of this maneuver is obvious and intends to circumvent restrictions imposed by the Constitution that do not allow holding presidential seat for more than two consecutive terms. Thereby we would like to produce our counter arguments to the audience.

Indeed, Vladimir Putin has been in power since 2000. Any citizen of a legal age residing permanently in Russia who saw at first hand the dark nineties’ verge of collapse, all that owing to the underhand plotting of numerous foreign well-wishers as well, will surely highly appreciate the deeds of our Pres-ident. His endeavors put an end to a rampant crime and a wild banditry of the nineties, cut short the factual plunder of the country’s national wealth aforethought by national oligarchs and their foreign partners. At that time, Vladimir Putin restored the rule of law and people’s credibility towards law-enforcement authorities. He rebuilt economic stability and strengthened Russia’s prestige in the international arena. Nowadays, in comparison with other countries, Russia’s external debt has been reduced to the most rational minimum. Be-sides, at present, Russia possesses one of the largest gold and foreign exchange reserves in the world. Inflation rate that reached 84.4% in 1998 has come to 3% in 2019. Retirement benefits had a 15 times cumulative increase between 2001 and 2010 and since 2010 they have been indexed by the state up to two times annually. None of these achievements would have been possible without popular support and respect for Vladimir Putin as a national leader. Moreover, the last time during the Presidential elections in 2018, Vladimir Putin was confer-red 76.69% of overall votes on. We would like to note that Russian presidential elections’ system is one of the most transparent in the world. This transparency is ensured by presence of international observers and candidates’ representatives at the election districts as well as by a wide use of technical control systems, which a priori makes it impossible to fraud with the votes. All these factors in aggregate prevent any vote rigging thoroughly. This is what makes Russia considerably different from many other countries including the United States that still apply an archaic system of electors. As for a long presidential term, let us recall F. Roosevelt, the great American President, who had been elected President four times in a row. Examples that are more current include Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel who has been holding office since November 2005 and the head of the People’s Republic of China who, despite his irremovability, has transformed his country into the second most important economic power in the world.

We would like to point out that opposition parties carrying out their activity within existing legal framework in Russia have no barriers. Russian Parliament embodies the entire spectrum of political forces such as communists, liberals, social democrats, and centrists. As for the followers of M. Khodorkovsky and some other figures of non-systemic opposition, at different dates of modern political history of Russia the evidence has suggested that they represent marginal groups of the population which are highly ideologized and dependent on financial injections from abroad. Therefore, they pursue an agenda of their foreign sponsors rather than the interests of prevailing majority of the Russian population. In fact, M. Khodorkovsky has never had people’s confidence and has long been out of touch with Russian reality. The fact of presidential clemency towards him demonstrates political tolerance and humanity of our President.

During these 20 years in power, Vladimir Putin has done a lot for his country while being the guards-man of human rights and civil liberties guaranteed by the country’s constitution. Dmitry Medvedev’s resignation shows his understanding of the President’s discontent with inefficiency of measures taken is quite indicant that the resignation took place immediately after V. Putin announced a range of measures intended to increase social protectability and living standards in Russia. This range of measures is designed to provide for growth of maternity capital issued at child birth, to stipulate allowance payment in favour of destitute parents with young children, to relieve taxation pressure for large families, to bring down mortgage rates, to increase educators’ salary, to provide students with free hot meals at school, etc. For some reason, the author does not say a word about all this in the article. New Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin who has replaced Dmitry Medvedev is a skilled manager widely known for his modern mindset particularly with regard to building healthy relations with businessmen. Russian business circles trust and respect him. Without any doubt, he will be able to implement tasks set by our President.

As for the reform of legislative power in Russia, it aims to democratize further state administration, to make it even more pluralistic, and to improve the system of checks and balances. The proposed measures are partial constraint of presidential power, extension of power within Parliament and State Council (which includes the representations of Russian regions), introduction of important socio-economic provisions at the constitutional level in order to formalize state duty to improve living standards of citizens. Interestingly enough the proposed reforms have confused the non-systemic opposition and some of its adherents rushed to organize protest demonstrations after the range of measures has been announced. Others were baffled and found no reason to protest as the reformatory motions were mostly in line with their own agenda.

We would like to thank the respected editorial board of L’express for the opportunity to speak to the subject and hope that provided information would help your audience to create an impartial and unprejudiced vision of processes taking place in Russia.

By The Ambassador of Russia in Mauritius Konstantin Klimovskiy

Director’s Note

About Democracy

Dear Ambassador Klimovskiy,

Thank you for your insights which offer a practical framework, if I may, to incorporate international relations and comparative politics.

As Voltaire once put it, I might disapprove of what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it. Since its inception, our paper has chosen to support such democractic principles as freedom of information and freedom of opinion.

 One of the strengths of representative democracy is the ability for the proletariat to speak the truth to and hold political leaders accountable. When a political leader finds ways to stay in power or close to power for two decades in a country that only allows two consecutive presidential mandates, representative democracy is undermined – at least from my humble journalistic perspective.

You have pointed out the realities of the 2018 presidential elections, in which Vladimir Putin gained 76.69 % of the votes. At first glance, regardless of criticism pertaining to the electioneering process, it looks like a landslide. However, the percentage of registered voters opting to maintain Putin in power is not impressive, only around…51%.

You’ll agree with me that this figure sheds a different light on the divisive nature of domestic politics in Russia. It means that nearly half of Russia has not voted for Putin as president. The lack of a reliable alternative to Putin’s supremacy over domestic politics has not led voters to flock to his side. More than 30% of registered voters did not head to the polls in 2018.

The ambassador also recalls previous instances of leaders being elected for more than two mandates. In the United States, the tradition that George Washington started was to serve a maximum of two presidential mandates. However, Franklin D. Roosevelt transcended those limits to be elected to four consecutive mandates. Fearing the possibility of a president with unlimited time in power after the Roosevelt episode, the US Constitution was officially amended (the process started in 1947 and came into force in 1951) to prevent power-hungry leaders (which FDR was not!) from staying at the head of their country.

In Germany, there are limits on the Bundestag but not on the position of chancellor. The chancellor needs to retain the confidence of the Bundestag to stay in power, which Angela Merkel has done without constitutional interference.In the short-term, it is also worth pointing out that Merkel is not the leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) anymore and will not stand for re-election as chancellor in 2021.

While there might be other reasons (highlighted by you) justifying the reforms in legislative power in Russia, it would be a journalistic faux-pas to imagine that it has nothing to do with Putin’s desire to remain in power as long as he possibly can.

Finally, let me add that contradictions are important in the sense that we can learn from one another, n’est-ce pas Mr Ambassador ?

By Nad Sivaramen

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