Russia is an enigma wrapped in a riddle inside a mystery RUSSIAN POLITICAL SYSTEM
INTRODUCTION• The Russian political system is one of the more recent to embrace democracy but remains deeply flawed in terms of its democratic credentials.• The Russian Federation was the largest nation to emerge from the break up of the Soviet Union in December 1991.• Russia adopted a new constitution in a referendum of December 1993. Essentially the country is described as a federal presidential republic.
LEGISLATURE• The upper house in the Russian Federal Assembly is the Federation Council. The Council has 168 members who are known as senators. Each of the 84 federal subjects of Russia sends two members to the Council.• The federal subjects are the 21 republics, the 47 oblasts, the eight krais.• As a result of the territorial nature of the upper house, terms to the Council are not nationally fixed, but instead are determined according to the regional bodies the senators represent.
EXECUTIVE• The Prime Minister is appointed by the President with the approval of the Duma and is first-in-line to the presidency in the case of the Presidents death or resignation.• Historically the role of Prime Minister has been very much subservient to that of the President. However, this situation changed in March 2008 when Vladimir Putin stepped down as President - as he was constitutionally required to do - and became Prime Minister. It is widely believed that Putin remains the most powerful man in Russia and will return to the Presidency in March 2012.
JUDICIARY• The Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation consists of 19 judges, one being the Chairman and another one being Deputy Chairman. Judges are appointed by the President with the consent of the Federation Council.• In theory the judiciary is independent, most observers believe that major elements of the judiciary - together with the police and prosecution authorities - are under the political control of the Kremlin and more specifically Vladimir Putin.•
THE PRESIDENT• The constitution of 1993 provides strong powers for the President. The President has broad authority to issue decrees and directives that have the force of law without legislative review.• Indeed Russias strong presidency is sometimes compared with that of Charles de Gaulle in the French Fifth Republic (1958-69).• The Law on Presidential Elections requires that the winner receive more than 50% of the votes cast. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, the top two candidates in term of votes must face each other in a run-off election.
PRESIDENTS OF RUSSIA • The first President of the new Russia was Boris Yelsin who was elected in June 1991. He was followed by his hand-picked successor Vladimir Putin. After a term as Acting President, he was elected for his first term in May 2000 and for a second term in March 2004. In accordance with the constitution, he stepped down in March 2008 and was succeeded by his nominated successor Dmitry Medvedev (previously a First Deputy Prime Minister). The next election is to be held in March 2012 when the new President will serve for six years.Boris Nikolaewich 1991-99 Vladimer Putin 2000-08 Dmitry Medvedev
POLITICAL PARTIES• The main political party is called United Russia. It was founded in April 2001 as a result of a merger between several political parties. It describes itself as centrist. It is essentially a creation of Vladimir Putin and supports him in the Duma and the Federation Council.• The main opposition party is the Communist Party of the Russian Federation led by Gennady Zyuganov. In the recent election, it won 46 seats. The only other parties retaining seats in the Duma are the ultra- nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia with 35 seats, the fake opposition party A Just Russia with 31 seats, and the nationalist Peoples Union with 12 seats.
CONCLUSION• While Russian democracy may not be a total oxymoron, it is most certainly a work in progress with Vladimir Putin remaining a massive influence on the acquisition and exercise of power. Observers describe the current state of the Russian political system as "managed democracy" or "sovereign democracy" or simply as "Putinism".• The dismissal of Russias powerful prosecutor-general Yuri Skuratov in 1999, the indictment of Russias richest oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky in 2003 and again in 2010, and the unexplained murder of investigative journalist Anna Plitkovskaya in 2006 are but the most dramatic examples of the iron grip on political power exercised by Putin and his allies.