With international focus on the World Cup, the Russian government announced a series of unpopular reforms, including an increase in retirement age. If the government intended to use World Cup euphoria to distract people from these proposed changes, Moscow deeply underestimated the social sensitivity of the issue and the mobilising capacity of social reforms. Shadow Governance Intel discusses the implications of the reforms and what the reactions tell us about the underlying political dynamics in the country.
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Tajikistan’s investment environment is inhospitable, regardless of an investors appetite for risk. Business and politics are inseparable in the country, and the political elite successfully manipulate the political and commercial environment to their benefit – seen through cases of embezzlement, corruption, intimidation of rivals, and the diversion of profits offshore. Those who challenge the Presidential family in private enterprise inevitably face repercussions.
Reforms have brought a degree of transparency to Ukraine’s political system. A legacy of oligarch interference over political institutions, however, is not so easily disrupted; evident in media revelations that President Poroshenko has prioritised the security and growth of his business interests over the promises he made to the electorate. As Ukraine’s future balances between progress and regression, will the balance tilt towards further reform, or will the road towards a new oligarch class and influence be opened?
With the presidential elections just six months away, the attention of the Kremlin is on targeting the social media audience efficiently to avoid the repetition of 2012 scenario. However, attempts to engage and mobilise Internet users have been sporadic and clumsy while their effect has been marred with the Kremlin’s continuous attempts to increase Internet censorship.
Increased affiliation to the Russian Orthodox Church has proved to be a trend among Russia’s elite groups during Putin’s third presidential term. Both the church and elite groups benefit from their mutual allegiance. While power players finance Church operations, the Church provides ideological backing to the Kremlin and a positive public image for business elite.
VTB’s involvement in the Mozambique debt scandal attracted attention to the bank’s operations in Africa and other foreign countries. The bank is closely connected to Russia’s most powerful elite groups who frequently use it to solve politically-sensitive problems. VTB’s foreign activity should be closely monitored vis-à-vis the Kremlin’s attempts to use it to informally promote its foreign policy goals.
Since Petro Poroshenko’s presidential victory in May 2014, he and former Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk maintained a relative balance of power. But as the President begins his second year in office, that balance has shifted in Poroshenko’s favour.
Foreign entities who currently or have previously invested in Russia in the past are aware of the various challenges they face, such as corruption, arbitrary enforcement of laws, and state bureaucratic procedures. While many of these issues remain a concern – and show few signs of abating – operating under the new era of sanctions have led to new challenges.