The Transition Project: Devolution of Power

To avoid a return to another version of Putin’s model of the state, the post-Putin model must create and maintain a state that is both strong and limited, not only by institutions, but also by active public participation.

Historical experience shows that key elements of society — the elite, the population, business and the regions — were unable to effectively coordinate their actions to prevent the degradation of the political system and strengthen Putin’s personalistic regime, and then his open external aggression. Therefore, with new reforms, it is necessary to introduce institutions, or rules of the game, allowing different political and social actors to coordinate their actions against new attempts to concentrate power.

The Constitution and laws, despite their importance, do not serve as automatic constraints. A complex and expensive system of numerous guarantees and restrictions is needed. Yes, it includes the institutions of federalism and decentralization, the expansion of the powers of parliament and representative bodies in the regions. But these are also competitive elections at all levels, political parties, the independence of the judicial system, as well as incentives that make politicians dependent on the regions and the business community, and not on the oligarchs, and motivate them to work in the regions and with business.

Putin’s model of the state is a simple hierarchical model, a model of the vertical of power. A strong but institution-limited state that needs to be built is a complex model. Such a state must not only be built, but also configured. Moreover, we are not talking about a one-time, but about a permanent adjustment that elites and society should be engaged in.

We continue to publish chapters of The Transition Project, a step-by-step expert guide to democratic transformations in Russia after the change of power.

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