No end in sight to Russia's era of Vladimir Putin

 
Vladimir Putin Vladimir Putin has built a system that disables any political opponent

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It feels like the day after a general election.

Russians now know the name of their next president - Vladimir Putin.

They know who their prime minister is going to be - Dmitry Medvedev.

They have a pretty good idea which political party will have the majority in parliament - United Russia.

They know all this, even though parliamentary elections are still two-and-a-half months away. And the next presidential election will not be until March 2012.

The results are already clear. When Dmitry Medvedev took the stage at a party conference on Saturday and backed Vladimir Putin for president, he effectively handed back the keys to the Kremlin. Job done.

The presidential election will be little more than a referendum on what has already been agreed behind closed doors - that Mr Putin will return to the presidency.

Strongman image

It is unthinkable that Vladimir Putin could lose that election. He remains the most popular politician in Russia.

That is partly because of his strongman image, that goes down well with the public.

Start Quote

You seek eternal power... Then the questions of elections and successors will flake away naturally like crumbling plaster”

End Quote Moskovsky Komsomolets Russian newspaper

And it is partly because the political system he has created prevents any potential rivals from appearing on the scene, from getting air time on national TV, and from gaining authority.

It is the same with Russia's political parties. In December's Duma election, only those parties approved or tolerated by the Kremlin will have the opportunity to contest the poll.

Experience shows that opposition parties viewed by the authorities as anti-Kremlin or anti-Putin, and which openly criticise the Russian prime minister, normally struggle to receive official registration.

So, what do Russians make of this pre-ordained transfer of power?

Judging from some of Monday's Russian papers, there is a degree of anger.

The popular tabloid Moskovsky Komsomolets has a cartoon on its front page. It shows a ballot box with a heart-shaped slot for the ballot papers. It is a sign that, in Russia, elections have become little more than a plebiscite on the nation's love of one man.

The paper accuses Vladimir Putin of wanting more than just 12 more years - two terms - in power.

"You seek eternal power," it says. "You're counting on medical progress. You hope to buy yourself eternal life. Then the questions of elections and successors will flake away naturally like crumbling plaster."

According to the broadsheet Vedomosti, Saturday's announcement shows that Dmitry Medvedev's time in the Kremlin was merely "camouflage" for a third Putin presidential term. It likens Russia to the Titanic, heading for a disaster.

Vladimir Putin swimming Vladimir Putin's strongman image seems to go down well with many Russians

Some of President Medvedev's own advisers are deflated, too.

Last week Medvedev adviser Igor Yurgens told me he was sure that the president would seek a second term. Today he admitted defeat.

"I feel disappointment bordering on anger," Mr Yurgens told me at his Modernisation think-tank in Moscow. "Their smiling announcement that they already had it in their heads for a long time was humiliating. The rational explanation is that Medvedev was under pressure and the stronger and more influential Putin got the upper hand. "

On Saturday the Russian president's economic advisor Arkady Dvorkovich tweeted simply: "There's no cause for rejoicing."

But on the streets of Moscow, I found people less pessimistic.

"Putin has the experience, he's the best candidate for president," Vladimir told me. "I don't see anyone else who could do the job."

I asked Vladimir whether he would bother voting in the presidential election, now that the result seemed clear.

"Yes, I will vote," he replied. "It's my duty as a citizen."

Olga, too, will cast her ballot in March. "If nobody votes, then elections will cease to exist," she told me.

"From the point of view of democracy, it is not good that we have such a small choice. But at least we know Putin. He's been president before. I'm not against him."

 

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 28.

    Putin has brought a deal of stability to Russia, which is why many Russians wish to see him continue. And when compared with the many lacklustre politicians in the west, the man ranks highly. He has that quality that many of them aspire to, and that is leadership! And leadership is something that the Russians admire and many in the UK and Europe crave. Putin, good for Russia!!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 27.

    The hypocrisy of us Western nations is so palpable, what is superior about a choice of several poor and ineffective candidates to a single, competent leader? Choice is only a good thing when there is something to choose between but France, America and even Britain have merely the choice between one useless leader and another with none daring to upset anyone in society in order to get things done.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 26.

    One more thing. It is interesting perhaps that this question of the 'autocratic' or 'democratic' destiny of Russia can be traced right back to the rivalry between Moscow and Veliky Novgorod in the 15th century, or even earlier.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 25.

    The view of a western observer. Russia needs to maintain the stability which was lost in the years of "shock therapy" in the 1990s. She has recovered a considerable part of her standing on the world stage. But her ability to help resolve important international issues will be diminished if there is a perception that her leaders have reverted to Soviet ways of thinking about retaining power.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 24.

    Jerusalem, by any measure one can think of, must surely be the greatest city in the whole world - but St. Petersburg runs it a close second.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 23.

    sujeet sinha, no.4;

    "What is happening now is all together a Circus."

    If you're interested in circuses, think back to the Gordon Clown variety in this country, with Mandy the ringmaster. The Russian political system is not without fault, but at least the government has never descended to that level of total farce in recent years.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 22.

    I m russian, live in Moscow. Our gouvernment is dead to shame and have no conscience, seems like they forgot about everyone in there Kremlin. They even don't try to hide that all is decided!! It is even worse than a theatre where u know that it is a play.. We all now understand that USSR times have already come back. All this is very bad ((

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 21.

    With the new six year terms, we will have to wait and see whether he will be there as president until 2024.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 20.

    I would have been interested in seeing an election with both of them standing. This would most likely give the same result but at the same time shut everyone up about democracy in Russia not being real. (That said - majority of people in Russia support Putin, hence we have a de facto democracy. Not that democracy in itself is of any value if it doesn't do anything for the country...)

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 19.

    If we didn't rely on Russia so much for energy thanks to the idiot Tory Party the last time they were in power we would be able to make a stand against this awful regime.

    No doubt this dictator is a personal friend of senior Tory Party members just like Pinochet and others were friends of Thatcher.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 18.

    Sergey S is FSB agent.
    It feels like the day after a funeral.
    Anybody in Russia who hasn't yet drunk away his wits is appalled. The last hopes are shattered.
    The man is worse than his paranoid idol Stalin in Stalin/Hitler pair,
    his FSB clan is worse than NKVD as SS/NKVD paired.
    Just NATO’s bombardment as in Libya can oust FSB clan from everlasting power and clowned politics in Russia.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 17.

    All this uproar in Western media sounds unsettlingly like an attempt to 'lay the groundwork' for a future invasion a-la Lybia, to liberate a nation struggling under the iron heel of a dictator. Why wonder then that Russia wants to modernize its army? We can deal with our own affairs, thank you very much. And yes, Putin is popular in Russia. There will always be a disgruntled minority, but he is.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 16.

    Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev has expressed some concern over this announcement - but i'd be fascinated to know the view of his great political rival, who sadly has passed away.

    Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 15.

    Why do you try to comment our choice (of President) if it will never be little beat right from anybody who wasn't born in Russia and doesn't live here for the years? Not all the Russians but the real majority of us have breath out on Saturday, when Putin announced his return to Kremlin. Everyone who gave his voice to Medvedev in 2008 did it only because Putin had to be back in 2012!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 14.

    He is a stabilizing influence in Russia and therefore globally. If the USA (with the world's largest arms expenditures and sales) would stop sabre rattling and criticizing Russian and Chinese arms increases and work towards arms limitations more money could go to infrastructure, health and education world wide.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 13.

    If Medvedev were to change his mind, and announced his candidacy to stand against Putin, i don't think it would have to be regarded as a 'betrayal' of their relationship. Why not let the Russian people decide between them? Apparently Medvedev, oddly, isn't actually a member of the 'United Russia' party. The winner could even appoint the other as prime minister afterwards. How civilised!

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 12.

    Mr Putin is a like a chess grand master moving his pieces round the board. I knew as soon as Medvedev became premier Putin would be back for life. I think we can expect more problems in the Ukraine, Baltic, and other former soviet lands, more foreign investments renationalised, more probing from sea and air, gas cut-offs and cyber attacks plus the Arctic. The grey Czar will soon to be crowned!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 11.

    With this candidacy Putin and Medvedev can go around in circles as President and PM. Serve their term limits and switch to the other job then back again until one or both of them die from old age. They need to amend their constitution so that no person can serve more than X terms or X years total (like the American Presidential term limit), but I know it would never happen, not in USSRussia.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 10.

    A credible opposition candidate would be very useful, to stop the election looking like a coronation - but does he or she actually exist?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 9.

    I wonder if this is any more rigged than our own UK elections, EU elections or the American elections. It does sound like a rig, completely fake, but then so do ours these days.

 

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