Putin’s IKEA Cabinet
The Moscow News, 21.05.2012
By Tim Wall
The new government unveiled by Vladimir Putin is no-nonsense, flatpack and utilitarian, in a slightly Swedish way.
Like Moscow’s IKEA stores, it seemed to take forever to get there, as the bottleneck of protests and indecision since March often resembled a rush-hour traffic jam on the MKAD. And while the basic kit looks OK out of the box, much will depend on how its policies are put together.
But joking aside, Putin’s choices for ministers do reveal a kind of Scandinavian mix of social democratic caution and modernity. At first glance it looks like a solid, durable Cabinet that will work, but not get anyone terribly excited.
Clearly, Putin needed to do three basic things: first, clear out the dead wood, including those ministers who have come in for harsh public criticism; second, bring in lots of new faces (mainly to be seen to be changing something); and third, give the reformist “Medvedev faction” enough places at the table to keep them and the business lobby reasonably happy.
Some new faces will help to give the impression of modernity, such as the 29-year-old communications minister, Nikolai Nikiforov, who set up Tatarstan’s innovative system of online government.
Then there’s the return to prominence of old hands such as Vladislav Surkov, who has been keeping a low profile since he was reshuffled out of his political “puppet master” role in December. While some critics see him as a modern-day Machiavelli, Surkov is still one of the most talented people in Putin’s team.
The replacement of long-serving Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev with Moscow police chief Vladimir Kolokoltsev serves two purposes. It defuses some of the flak over the numerous scandals, while rewarding Kolokoltsev for his key role in policing the Moscow opposition protests over the last six months.
But ultimately, will Putin’s IKEA Cabinet satisfy the customers?
The new government needs to move from talking about reforms to actually doing them. Diversifying the economy, fighting corruption and creating truly democratic institutions will take a much more radical approach. So far, Putin’s IKEA Cabinet looks more like just rearranging the furniture.