Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

Centralized but Fragmented: The Regional Dimension of Russia's "Party of Power"

Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

Centralized but Fragmented: The Regional Dimension of Russia's "Party of Power"

Article excerpt

Although the Putin regime has led an assault on the principles and practices of federalism, United Russia still has to operate in a multi-lateral quasi-federal polity,3 which has impacted the party's structure and organization.4 Deschouwer argues that parties in federations face two problems: the first is "vertical integration, the linking of the activities and strategies at two different levels." The second "is the managing of territorial variation between the regions in which the party participates in regional politics, national politics or both levels at the same time."5 Variations in the economic and social conditions and priorities across the units of the federation may make it difficult for a state-level party to respond to its local electoral base without bringing it into conflict with the federal level of the party organization.6

Moreover, the origins of federal states and the specific ways in which they were formed are of crucial importance in determining the character of the distribution of powers in federations. Federal states may emerge "from below" through the voluntary amalgamation of independent states (e.g., the U.S., Switzerland and Australia), or, on the contrary, they may result from top-down constitutional changes made to unitary states to prevent their collapse (e.g., India, Belgium, Spain). Stepan calls the former types which emerge from below as "coming together federalism" and the latter top-down varieties as "holding-together federalism."7 Stepan also defines a third category, "putting together federalism," which entails "a heavily coercive effort by a nondemocratic centralizing power to put together a multinational state, some of the components of which had previously been independent states."8 Those federations which arise out of bottom-up bargaining ("revolutions from below") generally cede more powers to their federal subjects than those which come about as the result of top-down bargaining amongst elites ("revolutions from above").9

In a similar manner, Panebianco argues that the origins of parties have a major impact on their "organizational characteristics."10 In particular, he stresses the differences produced by parties formed through "territorial penetration" and "territorial diffusion." Territorial penetration occurs "when the center controls, stimulates, or directs the development of the periphery, i.e., the construction of local and intermediate party associations." Territorial diffusion, by contrast, occurs when "development results from spontaneous germination: local elites construct party associations which are only later integrated into a national organization."11 Parties which develop through "penetration" will be more likely to produce strong cohesive and hierarchical institutions where power is concentrated at the center, whereas in those created through a process of "diffusion" the process will be "much more turbulent and complex... and the party is quite likely to give rise to decentralized and semi-autonomous structures, and consequently, to a dominant coalition divided by constant struggle for party control."12

Putin created UR from above through a process of "territorial penetration." Under Yeltsin, significant levels of de facto power had been ceded to the regions and there were fears that the country would break apart and suffer the same fate as the USSR. Thus, a key role of UR was to bolster the territorial integrity of the country and to integrate Russia's regional elites into Putin's new "vertical of power." However, the success of UR's penetration into the regions has largely been dependent on the support of regional governors and administrations.13 As Vladislav Surkov, the former deputy head of the Russian Presidential Administration, noted in 2006, "In the overwhelming majority of regions, UR relies on the incumbent authorities - regional leaders, city mayors, and so on."14 In many cases, as Roberts stresses, the "party central office simply coordinates and manages pre-existing regional electoral networks, supplying them with the UR label and allowing regional elites to develop the party franchise as they see fit," and often "it is far from certain that UR has managed to successfully penetrate every region and to create an unmediated party structure that effectively supplants the authority of the pre-existing regional elite groupings. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.