Wed 23 May 2012
EU Observer, 23 May 2012: The last few months saw speculation of two possible behavioural models for Putin. The usual wishful thinkers were hoping for a Putin 2.0 (or maybe 3.0 or even 4.0) who was supposed to have got the message of the street protests and was supposed to engage in (swiping) reforms to modernise Russia and gradually and slowly liberalize the political system to let some steam off. The alternative camp of usual alarmists were saying that Putin will return with even stronger determination to tighten the screws and things will be much worse in terms of repression before they get better. And both camps waited for the new government to get a sense of what will come next. With the government announced here are a few things to note:
1. On the surface three fourths of the government were changed, but the changes were rather (and unsurprisingly) conservative. The composition of the new government suggest neither a strong reformist push, nor a centralising backlash, but rather more of the same. Especially given that several key former ministers just joined Putin in the Presidential Administration as his advisors, but are likely to exercise more influence over specific policies than many of the new ministers.
2. Overall the government looks unexpectedly ‘Medvedievist’ – in the sense of having a good presence of soit-disant ‘liberals’. Igor Shuvalov, first deputy prime minister and one of the vocal proponents of modernisation in recent years, stayed on despite the recent exposure of some questionable financial transactions. Arkady Dvorkovich, ex-advisor to President Medvedev and another modernisation advocate was also appointed deputy prime-minister. Igor Sechin, ex-deputy prime minister in charge of the energy sector and the erstwhile silovik tsar who has the image of the dark cardinal behind the throne, is out. He moved (back) to the Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft. There is also talk that with his departure will mean that the running of the energy-related matters is taken out of the government. (more…)