Kasyanov: Putin has no legitimacy for reforms
Mikhail Kasyanov in Gazeta.ru (Personal translation from Russian to English)
Experts of different political views agree that without the removal of the power vertical and liberalization of society, any change in Russia is doomed to failure. Imagine for a moment that what happened on March 4 is real, free and fair democratic elections, which resulted in the presidency for a person with an undeniable democratic mandate and political will to implement deep reforms in all spheres of life of our country. This person, by and large is not to be envied. The new president gets a very difficult legacy: an archaic and stagnant political system due to corruption and incompetence of the state apparatus, stagnant economy, business climate incompatible with the level of entrepreneurial activity, degraded infrastructure and social sector, even at exorbitant oil prices crumbling budget and pension system. But perhaps the key negative factor – is the accelerating exodus from the country of honest, enterprising and talented people who are tired of the futility of existence in such an environment, and youth are not seeing for themselves any prospects in Russia. What in these circumstances should a new head of state do in order to pull Russia out of the vicious circle of destructive stagnation? In the extremely heterogeneous community of experts there is virtually one hundred percent consensus on steps to be taken in the first place. Academic scientists and experienced practitioners who hold a variety of professional and political beliefs, the authors of the official policies of the country and their opponents, who consider such an exercise futile in the absence of political change, show a striking unanimity of opinion. Undoubtedly, among the priority measures:
- Dismantling of the power vertical, the transition to public control of power over bureaucracy, electronic media and the judiciary;
- A full judicial reform aimed at creating a strong and independent judiciary;
- Strong liberalization of the social environment, restoring the conditions for genuine political and economic competition, a definitive separation of business and government, the removal of regulatory constraints and other business initiatives, a mass amnesty to so-called economic crimes;
- Transfer from the center to regional, and where it is rational, and at the municipal level of authority with the necessary resources to implement them;
- Drastic reduction of bureaucracy and security forces, determined to shift from the practice of abuse onto serving the citizens;
- The fight against corruption, not in words but in deeds, in line with best international practices;
- Privatisation of the vast majority of state-owned facilities in the competitive sectors of the economy, the transfer of the treasury for the eventual privatisation of state corporations;
- The tax turnaround, providing for reduction of the overall tax burden, shifting the center of gravity of taxation from the manufacturing sectors of the economy on raw materials, from production to consumption, the abolition of unjustified benefits, as well as increasing the stimulating role of taxes and duties;
- The budget turnaround, providing a radical cuts in spending and inefficient recovery of long-term financial balance momentary state and social funds, the shift from military to police the scientific and educational infrastructure and functions of the state;
- Replacement of Soviet and miserable social security to a modern social security that is enabled by an appropriate social policy;
- Jump to a predictable medium-term time horizon in conservative tariff policy by improving the efficiency of natural monopolies;
- Strengthening the independence of the Central Bank, to ensure the predictability of monetary policy and sustainable level of inflation, accelerated privatization of state shares in the credit and financial institutions, non-discriminatory financial supervision.
Let’s return to Earth. Me, like millions of people in our country, think that what really happened on March 4 under the guise of the popular vote, was undisguised farce. The presidency in spite of the Constitution for the third time went to Vladimir Putin, who was not elected in a fair and free elections and that millions of educated and active citizens of Russia, in contrast to statements in Washington, does not recognize the legitimate president. What will he do? It is highly probable that we will soon hear again from the top a liberal and democratic rhetoric. Putin may even announce a new stage of reform and make some symbolic steps toward public opinion at home and abroad. But nothing more. When you analyze the current situation there is almost no chance that instead of the familiar to all Putin there will be a mystical transformation into Putin 2.0, which will advance on the measures demanded by the overwhelming majority of professionals for the revival of the country. It is no coincidence that in his recent speeches there is not even the slightest signs of change: it is difficult to expect that the chief architect of the current system would suddenly agree to dismantle main pillars of the structure. And, by and large, even if they wanted to, you could not do it. In the XXI century, real reform is not simply imposed on a society. Their conduct is always interferes with their established order, and often quite detrimental to the interests and the wider social groups, and therefore requires authorities not only political will but also legitimacy. Putin has no legitimacy to this. Credibility among the thinking part of society is zero. The situation is hopeless? Not at all. The laws of economics and social development are relentless. No one can refute them. The country in recent months quietly became quite different. Putin’s design is swinging, and soon will begin to crumble disastrously, and it does wont be saved by artificial supports of Medvedev’s political reform, or the miracle of Skolkovo. There are no alternatives to the serious reforms as outlined in the list above. Like it or not, sooner or later they will have to take place. But later those will be harder and more painful to implement. The greater will be distance Russian will need to do to catch up with its rivals. Therefore the task of every responsible citizen and public figure, even more a politician, whether it is right, left or centrist, to demand from the power personified by Putin is the immediate democratic reforms, free and fair early parliamentary and presidential elections in a real political competition. As a result of these elections a legitimate authority can be established, and only it can get a mandate to carry out the necessary reforms in an atmosphere of social harmony. Otherwise very good and reasonable fundamentals will be doomed to failure, and eventually we will return to the situation of early 90s were in the haste of dismantled society a modern Russia had to be build in a day. Then we were lucky – there was no bloodshed and atomic disintegration. One should never forget that even luck has its limits.