Will Russian Democracy Be Put on Hold?
NATIONAL DEFENSE UNIV WASHINGTON DC INST FOR NATIONAL STRATEGIC STUDIES
Pagination or Media Count:
Although establishment politicians in Moscow insist that Russia is now on the way to recovery, public support for the central government is weak. In fact the gap between popular sentiment and government policy makers is widening. This development causes anxiety for those in power, who fear that the 1995 and 1996 elections will put them out of office. The crux of the problem, from their point of view, is that their political future rests in riding the coattails of a popular president. One solution being considered is replacing Yeltsin. This desperate search for a strong leader explains the instant political prominence of General Lebed, whose defiance of both Yeltsin and Defense Minister Grachev led many to view him as a presidential candidate or alternative to Yeltsin in an authoritarian succession. Another solution being considered is retaining Yeltsin as president by postponing presidential elections until 1998 or beyond. Advocates of such a delay are fully aware that the West may view their plans as a setback to democracy, but are attempting to cultivate U.S. support for this strategy by arguing that a hardline win in 1996 would mean a complete reversal of democratization and marketization in Russia. If establishment elites succeed in prolonging their tenure in power through non-democratic means, the long-term outlook for political stability is bleak. Unless the regime modifies policies to minimize the widening gap between establishment goals and popular aspirations, heightened social discontent will necessitate increased reliance on repressive measures to retain order. As in the past, the key to any successful attempt by government insiders to keep their positions illegally is the military. However, the political role of the military under such circumstances remains difficult to predict.
- Government and Political Science