Democracy v efficiency


Does economic modernisation need modernisation political? President Dmitry Medvedev thinks not. There is nothing surprising in that, for this was the view of most Russian leaders throughout a thousand years of history. Why, then, would a young professor of law think differently?

On September 28, Yuri Luzhkov, a 74-year-old mayor of Moscow, was sacked because he ‘lost the trust’ of the president. If the mayor’s fate had been decided by Moscovites, he would have remained in power - according to the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Centre (VTsIOM), the oldest polling institution in post-Soviet space, two out of three residents of the capital like Luzhkov.

There is nothing illegal in Dmitry Medvedev’s action. The reform of 2004 gives the president the power to dismiss regional governors if he wishes. It is probably not an unjust move either: few people outside Moscow like the mayor who epitomises metropolitan snobbism, opulence and corruption.

If truth be told, however, he lost very few if any of the many defamation cases he started against people who accused him of corruption. As it happens, he is a lucky man married to a talented entrepreneur who built a multi-billion business empire while her husband was busy with affairs in the city and became one of the richest women on the planet. He is not the only one, though. Valentina Matvienko, a St. Petersburg governor is a happy mother of a very young, very successful businessman.

In one way, though, Yuri Luzhkov is different. While Matvienko is demonstratively, stiflingly loyal to the Kremlin, he has his own, though usually crackpot, ideas on every matter of public life.

He supported territorial claims to Ukraine (he was banned from entering the country) and advocated the reversal of the northern rivers in order to sell water to Central Asia, praised Josef Stalin for his role in the country’s development and reviled Alexey Kudrin, the finance minister, for the stabilisation fund – a reserve to balance the ups and downs in the country’s revenues. He also thinks that the next president should be Putin, not Medvedev, see