When it comes to practical, everyday state-building, it seems to me that modern Russia continues to underestimate the difficulties involved. Everyone says that the economy is what counts most, that we won't be able to build a modern state and civil society unless we get the economy going soon.
But I think this is a serious mistake. I understand that the economy is immensely important and that if we don't reform the old Soviet command economy, we won't be able to compete in the 21st century. But state-building is an equally important, ongoing task upon which economic growth depends.
It seems to me that in the late '80s and through the '90s, the Russian political class failed to see how careful and professional an approach is needed to build a democratic state. Political instinct, rather than conscious political thought, was the driving force for events over this time, as society and politicians sought to do away with the old system without always thinking about what to put in its place.
The country's leaders tried to create new institutions, drawing partly on the experience of Tsarist Russia, as with the State Duma, borrowing bits and pieces from other countries and coming up with some inventions of their own. This hastiness and lack of professionalism led to the creation of some distorted state structures not designed to last long.
Analyzing the inherent contradictions in the system we have today, I came to the conclusion that this, our fourth republic, is doomed to make way for another. Many disagree and think that it would suffice to have a pro-presidential majority in the Duma to resolve the system's problems. But even if the Duma and government were to support the president, there would still be other contradictions in the system that would stop it from working effectively.
First of all, the role of the parliament. If the parliamentary majority doesn't have the right to form a government, there are no guarantees that today's pro-presidential majority couldn't fall apart tomorrow and find itself in the minority.
Another fault of the current system is the role of political parties. The parliament is moving toward a situation where it will be formed by several ideologically very different parties. Such a parliament, if it can't form the government, will always be a source of instability.
The temptation is to do like the Bolsheviks and make one party into a ruling party, ensuring unity of ideology and action. We've already been through this, though the temptation has inspired the organizers of the "governors' bloc" with its symbolic name "Unity."
Only, this is a mistake. You can't appoint public interests. A society's interests become clear through collision of various private interests. No one has yet come up with a better political solution than to have different parties competing for a turn at the helm. The only question is how to make this process more civilized.
The third fault of our system is that it gives the president too much authority. We have to admit that there are no institutional curbs on the president's power at present.
Without constitutional reform, I don't think we can make the current political system work effectively to solve the challenges our society faces. But to set this process in motion first requires the good will of the new president who would dismiss the current government and invite the Duma majority leader to form a cabinet.
This could even be done without violating the Constitution if the majority leader makes proposals to the president, the prime minister and ministers, and the president simply signs the proposals, thus retaining only a formal right to influence the forming of the government.
We would have then a de facto new Russian republic built on the principles of checks and balances to the president's power, a government formed by the parliamentary majority and political responsibility of the parties represented in parliament.
But are such transformations of the political system possible? I think they are, though some politicians currently hoping to win the presidential seat want to keep the present system. Many of them nourish dreams of an authoritarian state built on the constitutional powers of the president.
Others, often from the left, talk of having just a figurehead president or no president at all. This model is unsuitable for Russia because its parties are not yet sufficiently mature, having had little chance to get used to political responsibility. The result would likely be short-lived coalitions and an even more unstable system than we have today.
I think that transforming the present republic into a fifth, mixed presidential-parliamentary republic is the best option. The president would remain responsible for defense, foreign policy, law and order and territorial integrity. The parliamentary majority would form a government to deal with social and economic policy. This solution best suits Russia's historic traditions, mentality, and succession of political systems and would guarantee a more stable and effective state.