The Essence of Putin’s Managed Democracy

Managed democracy controls society while providing the appearance of democracy. Its main characteristics are as follows:
1. A strong presidency and weak institutions
2. State control of the media
3. Control over elections allows elites to legitimize their decisions
4. Visible short-term effectiveness and long-term inefficiency
The result is an “unstable stability” based on the president’s personality. He is actually a hostage of the system.

This system is highly dysfunctional, with poor information flows. Everything beneath the president is vertically integrated, but there are no horizontal connections. Smart guys make bad decisions and nobody has the big picture. Meanwhile the gap between personal, corporate, and systemic interests is growing, so it’s hard to make different elements of the system act in concert. Obedience is the first measure of performance and that creates perverse incentives. For example, a regional governor has an incentive to obey the center, but no incentive to make his region succeed.

As for the electoral system, it’s not that bad—it’s worse. The center can legally exclude any candidate.

.. The chaos there reveals the state’s short time horizon: nobody is interested in a long-term strategy.