Turkey Cleans Up the Courts

Is Turkey’s ruling AK Party trying to make the country more democratic or crush the last obstacles in the way of its Islamist agenda? A new package before Parliament aims to reform the judiciary by making it more difficult for courts to disband political parties and allowing military brass to be tried in civilian courts. AK officials say the changes will enhance the rule of law. But secularists claim the new rules are an attempt by the AK Party to dismantle the last checks on its power, after it crippled the military by arresting top generals on coup charges.The government insists that judges will still be independent and has not, as many feared, packed top judicial positions with its appointees. At the same time, it’s clear that the party’s primary motive is to protect itself from future prosecutions. But the truth is that Turkey’s courts badly need reform. Judges are still deeply partisan, mounting hostile prosecutions of AK members and trying to ban the party, even though it...

Moscow Bombings Could Lead to Police Reform

In the wake of last week's suicide bombings in Moscow, many Russian liberals feared that the attacks would end up strengthening Russia's security services and bolstering Putin's strong-arm policies. Instead, the violence seems to be increasing pressure for reform. Angry bloggers and newspaper commentators have blasted police for being "too busy with corruption…to do their job," as Duma Deputy Alexander Khinshtein wrote. President Dmitry Medvedev's Kremlin blog has also been inundated with posts complaining of police incompetence.The backlash against Russia's cops should give strength to Medvedev's liberal supporters, who were already calling for deep reforms of Russia's notoriously corrupt Interior Ministry. Popular resentment against law enforcement had been building for at least a year before the attacks, thanks to a series of scandals including a supermarket shooting spree by a drunken officer; a YouTube appeal by a police major in...

How to Reform Russia's Klepto-Economy

Igor Shuvalov is first deputy to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, charged with reforming Russia's economy. He also runs Russia's $200 billion sovereign wealth fund. Considered one of the key liberal voices in Russia today, Shuvalov has the task of helping wean the country off its dependence on natural resources. He spoke to NEWSWEEK's Owen Matthews in Moscow. Excerpts: ...

The Dark Truth Behind Medvedev's Reform Campaign

It says a lot about the kind of place Russia has become that just two minutes of mild mockery of the Kremlin could cause a political shock wave. But sure enough: when the state-controlled Channel One showed a short cartoon in January depicting Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and PresidentDmitry Medvedev dancing together in Red Square, singing a comic duet about the big news stories of 2009, liberals rejoiced. After years of political repression, tight media control, and officially ordained Putin-worship, they saw the lighthearted cartoon as a sign that Medvedev is finally changing Russia. The cartoon followed on the heels of a number of speeches the young president has given on the ills of Russia's rotten bureaucracy and its broken economy. He's promised, for instance, to slash bureaucracy and reform the corrupt judiciary, to simplify regulation, and to put government services online. He's vowed to break Russia's economic dependence on natural resources and build a knowledge...

Russia's Auto Wreck

Two years ago, Russia was one of the ­fastest-­growing auto markets in the world--but few Western carmakers were willing to risk a partnership there. Then, in 2007, Renault purchased a 25 percent stake in AvtoVaz, whose Lada brand was famous for the wrong reasons: its plants were fitted with ­Soviet-era production equipment and its 100,000 employees produced just 130,000 cars annually. Now, as Russian car sales tank in the wake of the financial crisis, it looks like Renault's gamble hasn't paid off. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has warned that Renault's stake could be diluted if it doesn't put in more ­money--but at the same time he wants to minimize redundancies. The Kremlin has promised $1 billion in subsidies, but without a ­major management overhaul the company risks becoming a walking corpse. So far, ­Renault remains committed. "We do not regret the deal for a moment," says the company's Oksana Nazarova. ...

Hermitage and Russia's Vulture Capitalism

Last month Dmitry Medvedev set out his bold new vision of a "more civilized" Russia, no longer prone to the "legal nihilism" that has rotted the fabric of Russian capitalism and turned the courts and police into tools for settling private business disputes. Many hoped that such a powerful signal from the president would set Russia on course to establish the rule of law. Now, a high-profile test case will show who runs Russia—crooks with official connections, or the state itself. This week a criminal suit filed in a Moscow court details a scam in which senior bureaucrats, judges, and police defrauded the Russian taxpayer of half a billion dollars—and then used the courts to persecute the scam's victims when they tried to blow the whistle.Right now the nihilists appear to have the upper hand. The plaintiff, American money manager Bill Browder, who once defended Vladimir Putin for playing hardball with Russia's business oligarchs, now lives in London, barred from Russia in 2005 as "a...

Turkey and Armenia Use Tourism to Heal Old Rifts

The ruins of the ancient Armenian capital of Ani are haunting, and haunted. On what is now a windblown patch of grassland enclosed in colossal walls and dotted with ancient cathedrals, there was once a great city. You can still see the ghosts of its streets outlined in the turf, and inside the granite churches you can make out the fading faces of saints and kings painted on the ceilings more than a millennium ago. On one side of the city, a dramatic single-span bridge, now ruined, brought the Silk Road across the gorge of the Akhurian River. On the other, the road wound on across the Anatolian plains to Constantinople and the great trading cities of the Mediterranean. Once, Ani was close to the center of the world. Today, it feels like the end of the earth.Only a few determined tourists make it to this remote patch of borderland on Turkey's frontier with Armenia (it's just four years since it became possible to visit the site without special permission from the military). In its...

Russia's Headed For a Long Economic Winter

Don't be fooled: Russia's still reeling from the commodities crash, and things are poised to get worse before they get better. Putin's oil fund will be "practically exhausted" by the end of 2010, says Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin. By the Russian government's own estimate, the economy will shrink by up to 8.5 percent in 2009. Worse, many Russian businesses appear to be all but insolvent. They face a $200 billion mountain of debt, much of which comes due this fall. With Russia's indebted businesses expected to net a mere $70 billion in profits this year, that leaves a potential $130 billion private-sector shortfall. Putin has tried to help by capping interest rates charged to private borrowers, but that means the pricing of risky loans has become artificially reduced. Overleveraged banks and corporations aren't just a Russian phenomenon, but no other economy is as dangerously dependent on the boom-and-bust cycles of the world's energy ma...

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