Tired of Strong Hand, Ever More Russians Want a Parliamentary Republic, ‘Nezavisimaya Gazeta’ Says

Arm and Torso of Person in Brown Sweater Placing Paper Ballot into Ballot Box

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, April 2, 2019)

Twenty years ago, Russians overwhelmingly wanted a strong hand to restore order; but now, having seen what that order looks like and what it doesn’t deliver, ever more of them both among the systemic liberals and the population as a whole would like to see Russia transformed into a parliamentary republic, the editors of Nezavisimaya gazeta say.

The last occasion before this during which the advantages of a parliamentary republic over a super-presidential system was during the election when both registered and unregistered liberal candidates made an argument for it, the paper says. But then the idea disappeared from the media and appeared to die out (ng.ru/editorial/2019-04-01/2_7545_red.html).

But now the idea is having a revival, in part as a result of the work of sociologist Sergey Belanovsky, who gained attention for predicting the 2011-2012 protests. Those taking part in focus groups he organized say they want to move away from the strong hand they wanted earlier to a more democratic arrangement (finversia.ru/obsor/blogs/sergei-belanovskii-negativnoe-otnoshenie-k-vlasti-narastaet-55531).

“To a large extent,” Belanovsky says, the Russian people have gone through a cycle: after a time with the strong hand in Soviet times, they wanted democracy; after democracy was accompanied by disorder, they wanted a strong hand; and now that they have had a strong hand again, they want democracy in the hopes that system will solve the problems Russia faces.

Among those who have advocated parliamentary democracy most consistently, the paper’s editors say, is Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the émigré opposition leader. He has argued that the legislature must consist of representatives of major regions and not necessarily be dominated by party groups.

Russians want a more democratic system, Nezavisimaya gazeta says, not only because they are angry that the current presidentialist system does not seem to be addressing their concerns but also because many are worried about the overall direction Russia is heading, including the militarization of the economy and international isolation.

“In general,” the editors continue, “the people are calling for a parliamentary republic because the presidential model hasn’t worked.” But that is the problem: the Russian people know what hasn’t worked and want something else. A parliamentary republic is “something else.” But the systemic liberals haven’t yet provided a convincing idea about exactly how it would work.

[Article also appeared at windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/04/tired-of-strong-hand-ever-more-russians.html]