- Author: Vladislav Zabrodin
- Date: 30.03.2012
The Global Legal Post, 30 March 2012
Vladislav Zabrodin, Managing Partner of Capital Legal Services
While many in The West express alarm at the sight of Vladimir Putin storming back into the Kremlin, Vladislav Zabrodin, Managing Partner of Capital Legal Services suggests his election victory might not be such bad news for business and the rule of law as some might believe.
I did not vote for Vladimir Putin in the recent Russian presidential elections. He still won, however. To be fair, even if the vote rigging – as widely alleged by the international media – did not take place, it is likely the outcome would have been the same; he would have won majority support – and in the first round. We must therefore accept the result.
The next and most important question following the vote is this. Where does the result take Russia in the next six to12 years? Many believe massive vote falsifications did take place and that the alleged fraud is clearly a bad omen for the new Putin presidency.
Likewise, and regardless of allegations of rigging, the election process gave rise to strong opposition voices against the way the country is currently being managed – voices that can no longer be disregarded.
’Senseless and merciless’
So where will Russia’s political and legal developments go from here? For the country’s businesses and lawyers alike, this is an extremely important question.
Obviously, we do not know what VVP (Mr Putin’s initials – which happen to match the Russian acronym for GDP) has in his head – and there is an almost equal amount of optimistic and pessimistic speculation. Both views are worth analysing.
First, the pessimistic: Mr Putin does not want to lose power when his first or second term finishes (the latter being 12 years from now) an enforces a dictatorship. Middle class Russians do not accept this and take to the streets in protest. To preserve state power, Mr Putin sends in the troops.
An effective political ‘vegetative’ state sets in – there is no sophisticated thinking and the education system continues to deteriorate. Medical care becomes even more corrupt; the police force gains excessive power and loses control – becoming itself a quasicriminal group, living off racketeering and failing to provide any meaningful assistance to lay citizens.
Eventually the law of the jungle swamps the rule of law as the now-unprotected poor also fill the streets. As 19th-century writer Alexander Pushkin said: ‘The Russian rebellion is horrid, senseless and merciless.’
Willing to listen
Most Russians do not desire such an outcome – nor do they believe such dire scenarios will come to pass. They remain essentially optimistic. Oil prices are good and macroeconomic factors are generally favourable.
Many adopt the view that Mr Putin’s ears were not deaf to those who protested against what they say were rigged elections, and that he is willing to listen. He accepts their outcry not as personal criticism, but as an attempt by the most active part of the public to help the country develop faster and to make it a comfortable, modern state.
The optimists maintain that, as a public figure, the president understands he must accept blame for infringements that he himself did not commit. There is hope that Mr Putin will move away from the current system of patronage and protectionism to one that supports professionalism and measures success by the wellbeing of the general population.
They believe improved education standards will focus on the development of a strong and responsible citizenry. Under this positive scenario, the state improves the healthcare system and further develops social insurance. The police, meanwhile, are accountable to the public and are reliable.
The gap between laws and their enforcement is diminished. The number of state employees is decreased and those who remain clearly understand their salaries come from taxpayers and their task is to serve the interests of society and to support business of all sizes. Legal and court systems continue to develop, become more reliable and sophisticated and support democratic values and fair business. The state increases support for research and development, processing of raw materials and infrastructure projects.
I hope and believe this optimistic vision is achievable and the potential for all of this can already be seen in everyday Russian life. But two factors are crucial. The first is that state officials must remain accountable. That means embedding the principles of power rotation though fair elections and the independence of the mass media.
The second is the development of a reliable, independent and efficient court system that is capable and willing to support responsible citizens.
Russians are accustomed to criticising everyone and everything around us, but we tend to forget that we have what we deserve. The creation and existence of a democratic society is based on the people battling daily for their rights and values, and the principle that no power can either disregard or disrespect the people, given, of course, that we are speaking not of a crowd gone mad, but of responsible and thinking individuals.
We do not know what will happen to the country in the next six to 12 years. We all thirst for positive changes. Yet even if we cannot change things overnight, the everyday efforts of millions of people who care about their country is bound to yield results. The personal efforts of the country’s leader is of utmost importance in this case.
As mentioned, I did not vote for Mr Putin myself – but I am still willing to support his goodwill and to trust in this country and its people.