Thursday, 30 April 2009

Liberal governor shows pluralism in Russia can work

The Moscow Times carries the story of a governor in Russia, who has to contend with a 3.7 billion ruble deficit in his region’s public finances, at a time when industrial output has fallen by 17%. It is an ordinary enough problem in Russian regional government in the current economic climate, but Nikita Belykh is by no means an ordinary Russian governor.

Belykh is an economic liberal who formerly led the Union of Right Forces (SPS), a business friendly party, which was wound up last November. He is a rather exotic specimen in Russian politics and forms an antidote to the loyal United Russia bureaucrats more habitually selected by the Kremlin.

President Medvedev appointed Belykh as governor to the Kirov region in January, despite his outspoken opposition to central government and the SPS man has since been dubbed ‘the Russian Obama’ by one magazine.

In a region with poor infrastructure, and in straightened times, Belykh’s programme of business deregulation is not being implemented in propitious circumstances. However, with a fractious election in Sochi once again attracting adverse publicity for Russian democracy, it is refreshing that pluralism is being practiced in at least one of the country’s regions.

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