최종편집 : 2020.5.21 목 20:08
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The Ornate Facade of Putin’s Authoritarian System
Park Ji-eun  |  jipark0810@cau.ac.kr
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승인 2020.03.18  22:26:44
트위터 페이스북 미투데이 요즘 네이버 구글 msn

In most cases, autocracy is a very dangerous political system. As it is a political system in which certain individuals or groups continue to dominate the power of a country unilaterally. It also means ‘politics that deny democratic procedures and conduct them on the authority of the ruler.’ On last January 15th, Russian president Vladimir Putin said in his annual state-of-the-nation speech that he would push for a constitutional amendment that would strengthen the authority of parliament. The Wall Street Journal said Putin’s move follows the footsteps of Lee Kuan Yew, who ruled Singapore more than six decades ago. Since stepping down as a prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew wielded exclusive power as an adviser until his death in 2015. So, in what sense is Putin’s willingness to strengthen the authority of parliament heralded the beginning of autocracy?

 

1. The Present President of Russia Vladimir Putin in Present Russia.
 
   
▲ https://www.ft.com/content/670039ec-98f3-11e9-9573-ee5cbb98ed36

 

           The president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, has served as president a total of four terms so far. After serving two consecutive terms beginning in 2000, he then held the post of prime minister while Dmitry Medvedev served as president. Since 2012, he has again been appointed as president for a second term, serving a total of four presidential posts. He must technically retire in 2024, when his fourth term ends. In the March 2018 presidential election, Putin was elected with 76.7% of the 67.5% turnout. The strong support of the Russian people for Putin was largely behind former Russian president Boris Yeltsin. Yeltsin, who served as president from 1991 to 1999, gained positive public recognition as the main character for radical reform, but is now seen as the main culprit behind Russia’s economic collapse. He pushed ahead with excessive economic policies in Russia, which was never prepared for a free market economy, eventually putting the nation on the brink of collapse. The biggest example is the failure of numerous state-owned enterprises, which were run by state support during the Soviet era, to win the competition against capitalist companies, resulting in the nation suffering from high unemployment and a high cost of living. According to The Global Economy, the unemployment rate in Russia during former president Boris Yeltsin’s term was 13.26% in 1998, the highest from 1991 to 2019. In addition, StatBureau reports that the inflation rate in Russia marked the highest rate of 2,508.85% in 1992 from 1991 to 2019. The incompetence of former president Yeltsin has led the Russian people to choose the stability of the Putin regime.

           However, given the assassination of a rising opposition leader and the arrest of journalists, it can’t be ignored that the approval rating for Putin was likely fabricated. In fact, the BBC’s Russian-language internet edition quoted a survey company called Form as saying that Putin’s approval rating fell to 43%, the lowest level in 18 years since 2001 (42%). Russia is officially a democracy, with a dual-government system.In actual fact, it is a dictatorship. As proof of this, we can refer to Alexei Navalny, who is considered Putin’s opponent. “The only goal of the Putin regime is to have the only leader for life own the entire nation and share national wealth with himself and his aides,” he said on his Twitter. He criticized Putin for his power monopoly.
 
2. The Annual State-of-the-nation Speech on 2020.01.15.
 
   
▲ https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/15/world/europe/russia-putin-government.html

 

            On January 15th, Russian president Putin spoke about a constitutional amendment. It quickly caught public attention. His speech was at the heart of the debate on strengthening the authority of Congress, restricting presidential tenure and strengthening the authority of the National Committee. Putin announced in his speech that there would be a national vote to transfer power from the president to the parliament. In addition, Putin also proposed expanding the role of a presidential advisory body called the State Council and in fact, he is the chair of this organization.

           Based on the historical fact that Russia is virtually a dictatorship, Putin’s speech is suspected by many foreign media as a sign of moving towards offical dictatorship. BBC correspondent Sarah Reinsford argued that the constitutional amendment may be a big plan for Putin, who is due to retire in 2024 following the current laws. She said Putin has elevated the status of the little-known State Council, which he already holds as chairman. If he is not using this, Putin may become prime minister again and slightly weaken Russia’s presidency as finding clues to his long-term dictatorship in his proposed constitutional amendment. On the surface, he seems to strengthen the power of parliament, but the reality is that it is for a long-term monopoly of power after his retirement.
 
3. Who is Lee Kuan Yew? The Dictatorship in Singapore.
 
           After Putin’s speech, the Wall Street Journal reported that he was following the model of Singapore’s leader, Lee Kuan Yew. He was the first prime minister of Singapore. He has also been called the ‘national wealth of Singapore’ as he made a small fishing village on the Malay Peninsula into an extremely wealthy country. He has pursued a developmental dictatorship with the philosophy that “the nation takes precedence over the individual.” He has transformed Singapore into a strong and powerful nation with a per capita income of about $500 back in 1965 to $56,000 in 2015. so, while he drastically developed the economy, he is also criticized for being a political dictator. He ruled the country with a strong rule of law, claiming that “freedom beyond order is unacceptable.” When he was in office, he reportedly controlled even small details such as watering down the toilet. He was also criticized as a developmental dictator for his long-term rule. Prime minister Lee Kuan Yew was in power for 31 years from 1959. Since then, he has retired and former Prime minister Goh Chok Tong, one of his close aides, has taken over power. Since 2004, Lee Kuan Yew’s son, prime minister Lee Hsien Loong, has been in power for 17 years. At this time, former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew assumed a special post advising prime minister Lee Hsien Loong and exercised power.
           Former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew was in power for 31 years. After leaving office, he slowly reduced his power, but until his death, he was the guardian of the nation. In other words, he chose to wield power behind the scenes to avoid criticism for his long term in power. In this regard, Putin, the current president of Russia, is taking a similar step to former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, who is laying the groundwork for power at the State Council even after his presidential term ends. Russian political analyst Valerie Solobey told the Wall Street Journal that Putin will try to avoid the spotlight predicting that Putin’s power transition phase has already begun. In light of Putin’s plan to strengthen the authority of the State Council during his announcement of the constitutional amendment, it is expected that he plans to control state affairs after his retirement as head of the State Council.
 
No one will be able to block his reform plans until Putin’s term ends in 2024. He will implement the constitutional amendments with high approval ratings as he has so far. The New York Times points out that the current situation is that he chose to open a “Pandora’s Box” with a variety of possibilities without revealing detailed plans for his long term in office. This is because the political elite in Russia will feel uneasy about his uncertain moves and will keep a closer eye on Putin. Will Russia’s current president Vladimir Putin not relinquish his power and retain his No. 1 post after retirement? Only time will tell.
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