Russia: politics & power

The process of transition to democracy began in 1990 when the Supreme Soviet revoked the Article 6 of the Constitution classifying the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) as “the leading and guiding force in the Soviet society and the core of its political system. This gesture announced that the starting point of the new political scene in Russia would be the breakdown of a single party system. Between 1986 and 1988 the society was organized in debate clubs generating the initial discussions that would make viable the creation of a multi-party system.

In early 1989 the CPSU had to face internal disputes between those members who supported the perestroika and an extension of liberal policies, and conservative ones who were hesitant to completely eliminate the mechanisms of socialism. Thus, in the early 90’s political system is established by followers of democrats versus CPSU, and any factions within it. This was the political forces’ setup under Yeltsin rule. The government was formed by democrats and faced opposition from nationalists that did not accept the dissolution of the USSR and communists who rejected the end of the country that created socialism.

Due to the deepening economic crisis in 1992, Yeltsin began to lose its base of support and confrontation with the opposition was becoming more unsustainable leading the president to implement a special administrative scheme in the country. It was a centralizing measure, a sort of state of emergency in order to strengthen the executive powers whereas the legislative body remained strong since the USSR era.

Thus, successive measures were taken, including the gradual constitutional reform proposal which featured a strong presidentialism, where the president could now appoint the Prime and dissolve the Duma (lower house) in case of impasses. Such measures would reshape the whole russian political system in the next years.

It is important to note that the economic crisis of the 90s and therefore the lack of effective social policies, made the left a possible alternative, and the new Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), had a significant increase in popular support. Yeltsin, noting the climate of uncertainty among the population and doubt about the government’s capability to restore the order, decides to appoint prime ministers with military or defence bodies’ background to convey a sense of order in the house.

On 9 August 1999 when Vladimir Putin who enjoyed a good rapport among the new political elite since he was a former head of the Federal Security (FSB), a successor agency to the KGB, who had operated in East Germany during the Cold War and began his political rise at the office for foreign affairs in the city of St. Petersburg, was named prime minister. He was the right man at just the right time. Putin took office and was instructed to fight the terrorists Islamists. It was a clear attempt to draw away attention from domestic politics.

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