Monday, November 17, 2008

Putin Pulls a Bloomberg

From the Moscow Times:
Putin's Constitutional Junta

What is most interesting about the term increases for State Duma deputies to five years and for the president to six years is the reaction to these changes. We heard hearty, prolonged applause by the Kremlin lackeys in the audience when President Dmitry Medvedev made his announcement in the state-of-the-nation address on Nov. 5. On the other hand, ordinary Russians are strangely silent on the issue...

There are two reasons why Putin rushed to change the Constitution only six months after stepping down as president. First, he sees the political and economic dangers of falling oil prices. The house of cards built on an eight-year oil boom is crumbling. Second, Putin understands that as the crisis develops, there could easily be a fierce battle among opportunistic politicians and businessmen to seize troubled assets.

Putin must act now before it is too late. In only six months, a rival group could be formed as an alternative to his siloviki to take advantage of the public discontent and power vacuum caused by the crisis. If this group becomes powerful enough, it could even rally around Medvedev and convince him to dismiss the prime minister based on the government's failures in handling the crisis.

This threat may seem farfetched, but Putin cannot completely dismiss it. When oil was more than $100 per barrel, the Medvedev-Putin duo could get away with its ersatz, or "sovereign," democracy. But during a financial crisis, it will be much more difficult to keep pulling the wool over the people's eyes.

Putin believes that during troubled times, the government and the Kremlin must be in the hands of a benign autocrat who is totally immune from critics and an opposition. Amid a state of emergency, the nation's leader needs to have a full mandate for six -- or, even better, 12 -- years.

This looks as if Putin is carrying out a constitutional junta. The only difference between his junta and the one in Latin American is that Putin is taking pre-emptive steps now to avoid a military coup later. This way he can maintain a semblance of democracy by packaging the coup in constitutional trappings...

Only difference is the people in New York have by no means been silent.


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