Why do Russians like authoritarian rule

Why, Russian-style elections are so important to Putin

Vladimir Putin can continue to rule in the Kremlin until 2024. In the meantime he has become a micromanager there.

The Russian electorate elected Vladimir Putin as president of the country for the fourth time on Sunday by a large majority. Although, of course, this polling was again not an election in the western sense. Of course, Putin is so popular with his compatriots today that he would win a regular election based on fair rules. But why does Putin insist on holding a ballot, the result of which is crystal clear from the start? Because the “managed democracy” conceived by the long-time Kremlin mastermind Wladyslaw Surkow provides for such a confirmation procedure by the people.

Julia Joffe writes in her long essay “What Putin really wants” in the US monthly magazine "The Atlantic" (1/2018): "The control of the media by the Kremlin, the keen eye on polls and the respective approval ratings (...) - all of this is done to underpin Putin's legitimacy and to make love with the 144 million subjects." ensure that Putin's authoritarian rule remains popular and cannot be challenged.

The Russian power system is now completely tailored to Putin, although some observers may argue that Putinism is not Putin alone. But, as Joffe notes, Putin has meanwhile geared all important state institutions - courts, armed forces, security organs, parliament, even the opposition parties and the economy - towards his person. No wonder that he is said to have complained to interlocutors how much time the “micromanagement” took up. "I would like to resign if I had the feeling that I had done enough to let the institutions work independently for my successor," Putin is reported to have said.

It is the dilemma of an autocratic ruler: “The only way to avoid risks to his system of rule is to remain in his post. But he cannot press ahead with reforms either, because these would lead to tears in the power structure and ultimately even to overthrow, ”explains Joffe, a long-serving American observer of Russia.

Stefan Meister, Russia expert at the German Society for Foreign Policy, also regards "the public closeness to the people and the institutionalization of Putin's power" as the two elements on which the re-elected long-term president is based. Putin is now deciding everything, writes Meister in the specialist foreign policy magazine "International Politics" (2/2018), the innermost leadership circle has gradually become smaller, "there are hardly any correctives". The system demands absolute loyalty to Putin all the more and tolerates fewer and fewer statements or actions that signal a distancing.

But it is precisely this permanent pressure from above for submission that leads to inner freezing. Stefan Meister warns: “The longer a lid is put over a society, the longer the real challenges are ignored by constructed ones, the more likely it is that there will be an explosion at some point. Exactly when nobody expected it - and the whole myth of stability was believed. ”It would be strange that the Russian leader, who avoids and avoids all chaos, has made Russia his political credo for precisely such a“ time of chaos ”.

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("Die Presse", print edition, March 19, 2018)