April 19th, 2011

Medvedev style modernization

Over the past week the plug seemed to be pulled on the BP-Rosneft deal, only to have the Kremlin step in and resuscitated it with a deadline extension to the middle of May. Despite government meddling in this case, there have been other signs that President Medvedev has moved further away from Putin’s managed democracy and the rule of law are taking hold.

Pavel Felgenhauer writes in the the Eurasia Daily Monitor

Russia’s tandem rulers – President Dmitry Medvedev and former president and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin – continue to profess their friendship, but these statements are increasingly unconvincing as the presidential elections that will install a new head of state for six years come closer. In Russia elections are shamelessly rigged and results prearranged by a corrupt bureaucracy, so the nomination of an official candidate is indeed the election per se, while the casting of the popular vote is a public relations exercise, mostly intended to appease foreigners and gain international legitimacy. The present tandem arrangement with Putin as the all-powerful prime minister officially sitting in the backseat with Medvedev performing the role of a largely figurehead president cannot continue much longer, certainly not for another six years, as it is already beginning to visibly crack.

Last year, President Medvedev signed into law that those charged with economic crimes should not have to face severe pre-trial detention, however, Russia’s best known political prisoner Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been in pre-trial detention since the start of his second trial. In an appearance before Russia’s Supreme Court, Khodorkovsky won his detention appeal.

The decision was a moral victory for Khodorkovsky, who was sentenced to remain in prison until 2017 in a December ruling condemned by Western governments and rights groups, but it will not lead to his release.

Are these signs that Medvedev’s power is ascending? Ordering top government officials to step down from their directorships of large Russian owned companies has not drawn comment from Putin, who set up the system. Perhaps this is a glimpse of modernization in action, Medvedev-style.

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