Experts assess Medvedev Cabinet’s first year in office

Experts are divided on the first year of Prime Minister
Dmitry Medvedev’s Cabinet, but they all agree that the government has turned
“technical” – the way it used to be during Vladimir Putin’s second term as
president. They believe Medvedev’s government is the only one possible under
President Vladimir Putin, as there can be no independent political players on Putin’s
team. Thus, no one expects him to dismiss the government any time soon.

“It is as hard to be the head of the government as it is to
be the president,” Dmitry Medvedev said, describing his “first emotional
observation” of his work in Russia’s White House. “The situation is nothing
extraordinary: There is nothing overdramatic, but nothing good is happening,
either. That’s what irritates everyone most,” said Medvedev.

Dmitry Medvedev

“The hard economic situation” was not the only difficulty
Dmitry Medvedev’s government has had to deal with, says the general director of
the International Institute for Political Expertise, Evgeny Minchenko, in a
report entitled “The Year of Dmitry Medvedev’s Government: Results and

According to Minchenko’s estimates, “the entire vertical
structure of executive power is run personally by the president.”

Some former
ministers were appointed aides and advisors to Putin, and former Economic
Development Minister Elvira Nabiullina will soon head the Central Bank, having
worked as a presidential aide for one year.

“From its very first day, Medvedev’s government has worked
in a much tighter economic environment than Putin’s government did back in
2008,” says Minchenko.

Putin led the government following elections
that favored the party in power. Dmitry Medvedev, on the other hand, became
prime minister after less successful elections for the ruling party, even
though Medvedev himself topped the election list. Moreover, mass protests began
in the wake of the elections.

The president ordered the new
government to execute his decrees of May 6 even before it had been formed.
Experts still doubt that all of those decrees can, indeed, be implemented.

Former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin told an Open Tribune meeting of the
ruling United Russia party that, in order to execute the presidential decree
that involves raising the wages of public sector employees, the government
would have to give up on the investment climate, which must be improved in line
with another decree adopted in May 2012.

The head of the Russian Audit Chamber
said that the decrees would require up to 700 billion rubles (more than $23
billion) if they were to be implemented.

These “difficulties” were among the reasons for the drop in
the Cabinet’s approval rating, as reported by leading Russian sociological
research organizations. Back in May 2012, a Levada Center report said that 53
percent of the population approved of the government’s activities; yet the
figure had fallen to 44 percent one year later. The number of those who
disapprove of the government’s policies increased to 55 percent from 46

VTsIOM, another major research organization, also reports a
decline in the government’s approval rating.

“The change is quite logical,”
says VTsIOM head Valery Fyodorov. According to him, “society has treated the
government as a technical agency under President Putin since 2003.”


Dmitry Medvedev sums up his first year as Prime Minister

Medvedev talks on results of Russia’s foreign and domestic policy

The change in the attitude toward Dmitry Medvedev indicates
that “he is no longer perceived as an independent political figure” since he
lost his status as head of state, says Igor Yurgens, head of the Institute of
Contemporary Development.

Medvedev earned a reputation for being a liberal when he
was president, so the “liberal wing of the ruling elite” hoped he would seek a
second term. However, Medvedev went on to become head of the United Russia
party, thus declaring his conservative stance.

“And he remained on Vladimir
Putin’s team, which cannot have any independent political figures,” Yurgens

Experts agree, therefore, that the government will not be
dismissed any time soon. “Some ministers may be replaced,” says Alexei Mukhin,
president of the Center for Political Information. Minchenko argues that
personnel decisions will depend entirely on the economic situation.

First published in Russian in Kommersant Daily.

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