Labor reform in Putin’s Russia: Could modernization be democratic?
The drive for “authoritarian modernization” provides incentives for the government to bypass democratic institutions and circumvent public discussions, similarly to what happened in education reform in the 2000s; or, alternatively, the government would go for a partial policy compromise, which may have satisfied major interest groups at the expense of policy efficiency, similarly to the case of the 2000-2001 pension reform. However, the 2000-2001 labor reform in Russia (analysed in this chapter) was adopted with the genuine use of democratic mechanisms and procedures. Moreover, the reformers proved successful in the process of selecting among policy alternatives and building a coalition to support the reform, which they managed to accomplish with only relatively minor compromises. This case study demonstrates that the government can squeeze unpopular reforms through the parliament without relying upon an “authoritarian modernization” model if its policies are backed by a strong and popular president and when its efforts to secure the support of various actors prove enough to build a broad informal coalition of supporters. The case of labor reform is also revealing because there were two full-fledged attempts at this reform in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and only the latter succeeded. This allows us to trace the ultimate policy success back to the factors that conditioned it in the second try but were lacking in the first attempt, and to consider some effects of policy learning.