The fall of the USSR led to the current political structure of the Russian federation. The 1993 constitution declared Russia a democratic, federative, law-based state with a republican form of government. It has become increasingly democratic State power is divided among legislative, executive, and judicial branches. The structure is very similar to the US except for the addition of a Prime Minister. The federalist set up of states is similar with 46 provinces, 21 republics, 9 kray, and 5 autonomous states. The two federal cities are located in Moscow and St. Petersburg with Moscow as the capital. The political economy is gradually moving towards a market-based and globally integrated economy from a more centrally planned one. With the fall of Soviet Union, industry and agriculture became privatized in the 1990s. Energy and defense remain the two major government run industries.
Throughout the past few years, the political situation in Russia has led the way for a substantially improved climate. Starting with the goals that the Russian government has stated, things are looking a lot better over there. An improved political situation along with encouraging economic changes is giving Russia a positive outlook for the future. To begin with, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been very supportive of making his country a favorable location for FDIs. This preceding Russia’s acceptance to the WTO in 2012. This resulted in lowered tariffs across the board and hopefully increased trade, due in large part to the Russian government.
There are two groups of representatives in the Russian government. These two groups collectively are referred to as the Federation Assembly. The lower house is referred to as the State Duma, and in many ways is very similar to the American House of Representatives. It is the more powerful house, with 450 members called deputies. Duma elections are held every five years. The members are elected through proportional representation of the districts. Citizens vote on parties and parties with 7% or more of the votes send members to the Duma by seniority within the party. Putin upped the percent of vote necessary for a party from 5 to 7% in 2007, which effectively eliminated minority parties or independents from being elected. The Federation Council is the second group of representatives, which is similar to the US Senate. Each federal subject, which is either a province, territory or city, sends two representatives called senators, to the Council (83 federal subjects, 166 senators). Each federal subject determines the term of their senators.
The first step in passing legislature in the Russian Government is the proposal of the law. The president of the Russian Federation and members or groups of members on the Federation council have the right of “law initiation.” Next a draft of the law must be submitted to the State Duma. There are several exceptions to this rule such as tax laws, which have their own procedure to pass. This law must then pass with a majority vote in the state Duma and move to the Federation council which also much pass the law with a majority vote. If the Council votes against the law, it may still be passed through a two-thirds vote in the Duma. If the Federation council passes the law, it is sent to the president who must sign or veto it within 14 days. A veto by the president can be overridden with a two-thirds vote of the Federal Assembly.
There are, however, many similarities to the U.S. legal system when looking at Russia. However, there are some differences. You can separate Russian courts into three different categories: Constitutional, Arbitration, and Civil. The Constitutional court is simple: like its U.S. counterpart, the Constitutional Court of Russia mainly deals with the constitutionality of Russian laws. Like the U.S., the Russian Constitution is the supreme law of the land. The Arbitration Court mostly deals with economic disputes. This is where businesses fight it out in court, and it is the court that prospective businesses will look to research before deciding whether to do business in Russia. The final court is the Civil Court. This court deals with most civil and criminal matters in the Russian Federation.
Unlike the United States, Russian utilizes Civil Law, which deals strictly in statues. In the U.S., we practice Common Law, which builds upon the precedents of previous cases. There have been problems in Russia with intellectual property theft, but like the U.S., Russia has laws and decrees protecting intellectual property. In fact, the country’s admittance into the World Trade Organization in 2012 forced it to rewrite several of its previous laws.
Even with these rules and regulations, however, there is still corruption within the Russian government. There is a market for this corruption that exceeds $240 billion dollars a year. This can be classified as several types of acts, such as : bribery, extortion, payouts, intimidation, violence, turning a blind eye, and even murder. Within the Putin administration, the amount of bribes in the economic sector has risen from roughly 33 billion to 400 billion a year within the last 10 years. It is estimated that 20% of the GDP in Russia is generated through unethical means, with 56% of total GDP coming in contact with some form of corruption at one point. This even has a trickle down effect, as 15% of the working class reported having to pay a bribe within the last 12 months for everyday necessities (such as utilities, unofficial “tolls” and protection money).
Human rights in Russia are controversial at best. 22.5% of all outstanding cases handled by the European Court of Human Rights are directed at the Russian Federation. Journalists and political opponents can still end up missing, despite the Cold War era being long gone. since 1992, there have been at least 50 reported murders of journalists who were speaking out against current administrations. Anyone who falls under a LGBT category can be legally lynched in Russia. Russia classifies LGBT people as pedophiles and turns a blind eye to vigilante groups who seek to “purify” Russia. These groups kidnap LGBT people and torture, humiliate and sometimes even kill them publicly with no repercussions. The police are no better, running their own districts like a mafia mob boss would. This even includes widespread and systematic torture of individuals within police custody.
Russia has been very aggressive in the Ukrainian situation. They have officially absorbed Crimea into the Russian Federation through intense country bullying processes. The Ukrainian president has withdrawn groups from Crimea in preparation for what might be a full scale invasion. As a cost to its actions, Russia has been removed from the G8 indefinitely. In addition, the Russian Federation is going to face heavy economic sanctions if it does not stop its bullying. these economic sanctions could very easily knock it out of the BRICK countries if it isn’t careful.
In conclusion, Russia is making progress. The speed of this progress is variable and not drastic, but it is still progress. The majority of people in Russia live better lives now then during the cold war. It also is working on improving its legal system and the way in which legislation is being improved. The situation within the Ukraine is very interesting to say the least. Russia may have stretched too far and soon face strict retaliation. While overall things are looking up, it might be a good idea to avoid Russia until the Ukrainian crisis blows over.