Friday, December 18, 2015

Graeme Gill's "Building an Authoritarian Polity"

Graeme Gill is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney. His books include Symbolism and Regime Change in Russia and Symbols and Legitimacy in Soviet Politics.

Gill applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Building an Authoritarian Polity: Russia in Post-Soviet Times, and reported the following:
On page 99 of my book, the results of the 2007 parliamentary election in Russia are discussed. This election, and the campaign that preceded it, highlights the way in which the Russian authorities manage political parties and, through them, the so-called "systemic opposition" in Russia. Through a combination of promoting a popular leader, tilting the electoral arena significantly in favour of the ruling party, and a lop-sided campaign, Putin and his supporters were able to achieve a decisive electoral majority which helped to consolidate authoritarian rule. But the structuring and manipulation of the electoral process was only one part of the broader strategy of building an authoritarian political system that has been followed since the collapse of the USSR in 1991.

There were three other broad components of this strategy: the restriction and structuring of the activity of civil society forces so that they were directed into safe channels, the building of a relatively coherent administrative structure that answers to the president, and the stabilisation of elite relations so that conflict and division do not break out within that group. This strategy has not been completely successful in any of these areas, and there have at times been clear instances where the attempt to implement the strategy produced results significantly short of what was desired. In particular, the strategy was much less successful under President Yeltsin than it has been under President Putin. Nevertheless, the strategy was followed by both presidents, so that the picture of Yeltsin as the democrat being replaced by Putin the autocrat is a caricature. And it is due to the efforts of both that Russia has reached the stage of authoritarian rule that now characterises it.
Learn more about Building an Authoritarian Polity at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue