Today’s Kremlin thinks that democracy was being built too quickly in Russia. The government does not say that it is against democracy, only that it is untimely and needs to be delayed – a logic that manifests itself in most official decisions.
Thus, at the beginning of the current decade, the democratic system of political checks and balances that had been created in the 1990’s began to be dismantled. Before 2000, there was an influential, independent press and a parliament loyal to the president, but still independent. The Federation Council (the upper chamber of the Duma), too, was generally loyal to the president, as were regional governors, while remaining independent. There were also influential entrepreneurs and business organizations that were actively involved in the decision-making process. As a result of the disappearance of these checks and balances, the quality of the government’s decisions has fallen sharply.
The notorious law on monetization of social benefits, which transforms in-kind benefits into cash, is a typical example. Despite the fundamental soundness of the step, it was poorly prepared and implemented, and the government seriously miscalculated its effects on the national budget. Moreover, it generated mass social protests, which the government evidently had not envisaged.
Never would the law in its current form have passed through the old State Duma. MP’s would have read and analyzed it attentively, asked ministers many questions, and, if necessary, insisted on re-writing various tables presented in the draft. They would have understood that the calculations provided were at complete odds with reality, and they would have considered what to do about it.