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Russian Federalism Good: Ethnic Conflict

Russian Federalism good – checks ethnic conflict and avoids disintegration

Rossiya, March 2, 2006

(“PROCESSES IN THE CAUCASUS” Translated by Pavel Pushkin, What the Papers Say Part A) Lexis

At any rate, the administrative and political measures proposed for achievement of these goals are imperfect. Of course, it is possible to understand Moscow. It is afraid that in a situation of free elections and due to limited administrative resource people infected with separatism and nationalism may ascend to power in the North Caucasus regions. What about the principles of federalism? In a federative state, provisions are made to separate authority among different levels of government. One of the most important powers of a province is the right to determine the structure and composition of its own executive and legislative branches. This right enabled the North Caucasus regions to take into account the ethnic composition of the population in the consciousness of which authorities are legitimate only when they represent all ethnic groups residing on this territory. Many people remember 1999 when after elections of the president an ethnic political crisis continued in Karachaevo-Cherkessia for almost 11 months. The crisis was resolved in 2000 when the system of ethnic representation was introduced: the president is a Karachai, the deputy president is an ethnic Russian, the prime minister is a Circassian and the speaker of the parliament is a Nogai. Distribution of posts among the main ethnic groups has been changed slightly, but the idea of ethnic representation has not lost its importance. There is also another hazard that Moscow seemingly hasn't taken into account. A trend of "ethnicizing" the regional branches of nationwide parties has already become clear in southern Russia. In other words, in absence of formal institutions ensuring ethnic representation in the power bodies local divisions of the nationwide parties turn into a "disguise" for ethnic elites when representatives of only one ethnic group join one party. Khoperskaya explains, "A two-party, three-party or four-party system will be formed in such way. In the best case there will be a preliminary agreement "on division" of parties among the elites and in the worst case political struggle will go out of the framework of political parties and will lead to a crisis, which for example happened in Dagestan in 1994. Do we need political opposition in such form? I do not think so." The ill-considered decisions and actions have negative impact on rating of the federal authorities. According to Khoperskaya, it is decreasing despite the increase of presence of security agencies in the south. A significant part of the population of the North Caucasus regions already does not take federal authorities as their authorities. She adds, "I think that Moscow feels this. That is why when ethnic unrest appears in this or that region the presidential plenipotentiary in the Southern federal district tries to satisfy the demands stated in the curse of this unrest." According to many researchers, preserving of the federative relations and strengthening of political authoritarianism are mutually excluding trends. Federalism as a principle of state arrangement and authoritarianism as a political regime fit each other badly. Caucasus history offers plenty of evidence that relying entirely on the use of force is ineffective. Disbanding the institution of ethnic state relations "from above" in a multi-ethnic state leads to destabilization of the situation.

Russian Federalism Good: Democracy

A strong federal state is key to Russian democracy and stability
Stoner-Weiss, associate director of research and senior research scholar at the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law at Stanford University's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, 2006
[Kathryn-, Journal of Democracy “Russia: Authoritarianism Without Authority”, Vol. 17 Iss 1, pg. 104]

By considering how types of state power can differ, we can more reliably assess the nature of the contemporary Russian state. In doing so, we should keep in mind that whether the Russian regime is democratic or authoritarian, the state itself must possess enough infrastructural power to make its authority regularly run beyond the Kremlin walls. Even if Russia completely abandons democracy, the demise of the highly centralized Soviet state is a reminder that authoritarianism is not necessarily a more reliable way in which to ensure adherence to central state authority. Regardless of the amount of financial aid that Russia receives from international organizations, the quality of its public policies, the fiscal and political threats issued by the president, or even the extent of electoral rights at the provincial level, if the central state lacks sufficient infrastructural power then positive change will come slowly, if at all, to the lives of ordinary Russians outside Moscow. But in contemporary Russia, where infrastructural (administrative) capacity is relatively low and there is an apparent unwillingness or inability to use despotic power in a broad and reliable way, democracy is the better governing alternative. From the point of view of actually being able to provide public goods and services (including personal security), democracy's major edge over authoritarianism is that the former offers a regular method by which officials can be held accountable to the public. Lacking any regular mechanism of accountability to rival free and fair elections, an undemocratic system must resort to extraordinary means (such as despotic power) to get rid of inept or corrupt officials or else resign itself to a cycle of cronyism and low governing capacity. Putin's claims about what ails Russia are wrong. The culprit behind Russia's ungovernability is not the country's halting democracy but rather its weak, poorly institutionalized state. The best cure, moreover, is not authoritarianism-whether hard or soft-but rather an enhanced democracy, more deeply institutionalized than it ever has been under Putin or his predecessor Boris Yeltsin.

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