CDDRL Working Papers
Russia today is best characterized as an over-managed democracy, where elites pay lip service to democratic norms while actively working to undermine them. This model of governance was shaped during Vladimir Putin's first term in office; faced with a choice between strengthening the democratic elements introduced by former President Yeltsin or tightening state control of the political, economic, and societal sectors, the Kremlin opted for the latter. This paper traces the roots of Putin's widespread and enduring popularity, paying special attention to the second Chechen War and state control of the media. Popular support paved the way for a series of legal reforms that consolidated Putin's power within the government, both destroying Russian federalism and undermining almost all checks on the presidency. The successful completion of the ‘power vertical' was showcased by Medvedev's 2008 election, which illustrated the essentially uncompetitive nature of democracy in Russia today. Consolidation of power has impeded economic growth, mainly due to the high levels of corruption fostered by the ruling clique, but the population continues to believe Putin's leadership is the best available option. Putin appears likely to reassume the presidency in 2012, if not sooner.