“How did Putin ensure that he remained at the centre of political power in Russia after stepping down as President in 2008?”
Seminar Tutor: Alexander Titov
Despite stepping down as President in 2008, Putin has remained a prominent, significant and powerful figure in Russian Politics from his appointed role as Prime Minster. Endorsed bybroadening his Prime Ministerial powers, in addition to having many loyalists within the Presidential administration, it appears that Putin still runs the ‘show’ (Wikileaks 2010) in Russia. This essay will address and explain Putin’s governance and sequential popularity during his terms in office, which have contributed to his centrality in Russian politics for the present and foreseeable future.Following the Yeltsin legacy, which had left the country in a ruinous state (Huskey, 2001 p. 83) Putin acted as a strong leader, managing Russia towards economic and political stability (Huskey 2001 p.83)). Putin reformed and revolutionised Russian politics by: centralising government; reforming the judicial system; changing legislation; cowing in oligarchs; gaining media control and infinitelyimproving Russian foreign relations, from Chechnya to The West (Lo 2003 p.3). Despite certain aspects of Putin’s governance being questionably ‘undemocratic’ (Uhlin 2006), he has been labelled as one of Russia’s most popular Presidents (Lo 2003 p.2).
Vladimir Putin surprised everyone by appearing out of political obscurity to democratically elected Presidency within the space of a year (Huskey 2001p.82; Rutland 2000 p.1); as a result of a heavy media campaign, and an excellently timed exit on Yeltsin’s behalf (Huskey 2001 p.82) – amongst other factors. He progressed from the head of Federal Security Service, to Prime Minister, to acting President to President of ‘the people’s choice’ (White & McAllistar 2003 p. 383). Putin has since become known as one of the most influential bodies inmodern Russian Politics (Lo 2003; Wikileaks 2010), gaining an unprecedented amount of domestic, and arguably, international popularity (Lo 2003).
By the late 1990’s, the Yeltsin regime had left the post-Communist country in a ‘trauma of rapid market development’ (Sakwa 2008 p.2) and power was fragmented throughout the country despite Yeltsin’s efforts to create a ‘super presidential’ state(Sakwa 2008 p.38). In the absence of institutions and leaders that could ‘integrate the interests of the diverse elites’ (Brown 2001 p.83); Russia had been rendered ungovernable (Huskey 2001 p.84). The economic and political systems were in desperate need of reform, and within a short space of time from Putin’s official inauguration, he brought in many changes to Government and legislation. Russianeeded to be modernised, and brought into the new millennium (Shevtsova 2003 p.79) in order to reinstate the broken country to greatness (Sakwa 2008 p.42).
Putin’s want of “dictatorship of law” (Ross 2003 p.2) led to the reorganisation of the Federation Council, the usurpation of unilateral powers to dismiss regional assemblies and chief executives, seven new “super” federal districts (Ross 2003),and huge changes in the juridical system. The reforms allowed for power to be redirected and centralised to Moscow (Brown 2001) and increase Presidential power across the Federation. In essence, the reforms returned Russian politics to a ‘one-man centred’ style of governance (Huskey 2001 p.83). Putin established a mechanism of governance which managed to establish effective control over the‘unruly’ provinces, a ruling Vertikal’ (Huskey 2001 p.88). Putin-loyal Presidential representatives with significant power and authority (Ross 2003) were appointed in each of the seven ‘carved’ (Huskey 2001 p.88; Shevtsova 2003) federal districts. These “super districts” became known as ‘mini-Moscow’s’ (Huskey 2001) which adhered to the directives of the Central government; effectively removing power...