Thursday, February 9, 2012

Research Paper on Russia

Research Paper on Russia

On the road to democracy Russia seems to have chronic inability to create a united political movement of democratic forces.  Many politicians of the world doubt not only commitment of Russia to democratic settings but also its understanding of the political concept of democracy in general.  Political culture and economic developments within the country are often the factors used to explain the democracy.  The Russian democracy is different from other countries’, however the same factors explain the nature of democracy in Russia today.

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The important event happened in Russia in 2004:  the presidential elections were held just after the dismissal of the government.  Putin, the current president of Russia, promised to keep on fighting against corruption and bureaucratism, which are very widespread in Russia today.  Strengthening the education and health systems (the salary level of teachers and medical personnel are below the minimal living standard requirement!) are also the key goals for the further development of democratic concepts in the country. 
Some positive results are already reached: bureaucracy is reduced through the administrative reform. For example, today there are only two deputy ministers in each ministry instead of fifteen compared to former cabinet.  Continuation of economic growth is the result of the work of newly hired highly experienced economist in the government who have market orientation.
However there are still some problems in the political system such as the domination of a single party in the parliament.  From one hand it will make the process of economic and social reforms easier because president has “peace” with one party parliament.  From the other hand, it limits the democratic independence of thought.
Economic development is the key in examining the democracy in Russia. Recently Russian population was surprised with the president’s actions because he has shown greater interest in the economic development of the country:  he was not so much concerned with it during his first term.  His current objectives are to double the GDP (gross domestic product) and join the WTO (World Trade Organization).  However, the economy is not much diversified and depends heavily on the oil and gas revenues.
Plans to increase the efficiency and productivity to achieve a sustained economic growth are indicators of the presence of democratic concepts in the politics.  Nevertheless, there are still some undemocratic structures present on the market such as monopolies.  For example, Gazprom (gas production), Sberbank (savings bank), and the United Systems are truly monopolistic structures. 

The government does not want to change their structures.  In addition, the state plans to increase its share in Gazprom from 38% to 51%.  Foreign investors are allowed to acquire only Gazprom’s American Depository Shares and are not allowed to buy domestic stock.  Sberbank has more than half of all deposits in the country and about 90% of all voters keep savings in this particular bank.  It is purely monopolized market, which makes Russia less democratic.  However, there are many projects to make the gas market less monopolized.  For example, currently the need for need for domestic gas market is stressed to allow foreign investors join the industry. 

Russian elections is the another indicator of the democracy developments in the country.  Many debates were held discussing whether the recent elections have been democratic.  Is Putin a democrat or an autocrat?  At his first speech early in 2000 at the start of his presidency, he stated very clearly that he has no intention to follow western model of political and economic developments in his country, the unique democratic Russian model was planned to be established.

Were the elections democratic?  Evidence shows that they were not.  Opposition candidates were not so much heard and seen in the media as Putin was.  However, during the prime time translations each party had a chance to speak up.  Probably, the roots of the problem were not in the public visibility but in the message the candidates carried to people.  Putin promoted and even challenged in some way the idea of Russian democracy while other parties were not so much concerned with democratic concepts at all. 

Democracy is not only about the institutions or political parties.  It is also about the plurality of ideas.  The opposition focused on what went wrong in the past years, while Putin focused on what is in the future.  This democratic vision helped his to win the majority of votes.  The balanced budgets, lower personal taxation and increase in pensions were the democratic development proposed by current president.  Economic reforms are the key democratic goals of Russian democracy and Putin has a proven record of expanding and stabilizing the Russian economy for four years already.

President supports a wide array of liberal ideas and has shown himself as a defender of national interests abroad as well as protector of the growing entrepreneurial class in the country.  However, such problems as gross socioeconomic inequalities and low level of responsiveness of governmental bodies, high level of corruption and crisis of educational institutions slow down the progress toward democracy. 

The progress made cannot be opposed.  Russia has many democratic improvements since 1993 and survived such tests as economic decline, the storming of the government and war at Chechnya.  However, there is no connection between new political systems and daily lives of average people.  The executive authority operated outside the party framework and it is one of the biggest obstacles to creation of party competition.  The conclusion that Russian democratic institutions are self-perpetuating would be not very wise.

The regionalization of Russia has produced immediate positive outcomes.  The fate of Russian democracy is fully dependant on the course of regional politics:  the territory is huge with different social and ethnic groups.  It seems that some regions are doing better then others.  Economic progress is evident in all regions:  falling inflation, lower unemployment rate, increase in salaries, increasing growth rate and stable exchange rates are indicators of democratic developments in the country.  The government succeeded in reducing state expenditures and created more effective tax collection system.

The most serious problem for further development of democratic institutions in Russian Federation is corruption.  It is not only the corruption of state bodies but also the criminalization of the country’s economy.  Some believe that the problem is in excessive liberalization and as a result the government freed itself from responsibility for market development and interferes only with proper functioning of the market. The state administration is much illegally privatized.

Even though Russian democracy is still on the stage of development, the progress is obvious.  The selective nature of political reforms, the increasing capacity of the court and independence of media give hope for further developments in the future towards democracy.  The current president Putin, who is serving for the second term, has a proven record of economic and political reforms, which can be called truly democratic, even though the Russian democracy is different from western understanding of this notion.
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