HOW RUSSIA IS RULED
The Kremlin has learned how to concentrate power by apparently dispersing it, reports Zygmunt Dzieciolowski.
In the 1980s, when the communist rulers in Poland still believed the old system could be saved, somebody came up with an idea for how to solve the problem of shortages of food and other goods in Polish stores. At that time most of the consumer sector was administered by the national monopoly company, "Spolem". An official whose name has been rightly forgotten by history suggested splitting Spolem into two different companies who would compete with each other. The principles of communist economy would be saved but perhaps a bit of rivalry between two companies strictly observing the rules set by the ruling Polish United Workers' Party could help to ease market scarcities. To some real reformists, this seemed from the beginning like a caricature of the market economy.
When I watch present-day Russian political life it seems to me that policymakers in the Kremlin must have learned the forgotten Polish idea and are now trying to implement it in their own country, albeit in the political arena and on a much larger scale.
For most of the period of Vladimir Putin's presidency, his key ally has been the Yedinaya Rossiya (United [or Unified] Russia) party, which has played a dominant role in the duma (state parliament). With a majority of votes, it has been able to pass any law proposed by the Kremlin. Governors in most of the eighty-six Russian regions are also loyal members of United Russia; so are numerous city-council members and mayors. The results of the regional elections of 11 March 2007 seem to confirm that, more and more, Putin's Russia is following the model of a country ruled by a single party.