Sitting in Glasgow airport’s Burger King (everything else was closed!) yesterday, this Times interview with President Putin caught my eye. Actually, it’s not a transcript of an interview, more a number of quick quotes that summarise Putin’s view on pretty much every major issue facing Russia today.
This, in particular, was interesting – simple, and to the point:
No, I am not going to run for president in 2008. No, we are not going to amend the constitution, he insisted.
I’m noticing that Putin has become more and more blunt over the last few months when responding to questions about whether he will run for the Presidency again. From an early enigmatic silence, moving on to hinting that he’d quite like to, but the current constitution wouldn’t allow it to this blunt denial of any intention to run or – in answer to many analysts concerns – any intention to change the constitution to allow him to run.
I’ve been on the fence for quite a while about whether Putin would run for a further term, but I’m beginning to believe that he really won’t run. I think he – and the team around him – have calculated that it simply isn’t a practical option. There isn’t enough public support for something as drastic as changing the constitution, and there is a risk that Putin – and, more importantly, those strongment, those siloviki, around him could end up with egg on their faces. Far better to follow Boris Yeltsin’s lead, find an amenable candidate during the next couple of years and begin promoting him. Sergei Ivanov, perhaps?
A couple of years are an eternity in Russian politics, though, so don’t go betting the house on anything…
I wonder if you could give a few guesses as to the likely candidates, and their chances.
Well, I know the question wasn’t addressed to me, but I think I more or less agree that the smart money would be on another statist/centrist/semi-authoritarian successor to Putin “emerging”, one way or another, as Putin emerged in 1999, and that candidate getting a majority of the votes in the 1st round, clearly defeating all other candidates.
Wouldn’t like to put any names forward at the present time- it is too much like Kremlinology of old. The new hopefuls come and go, only the people remain, as Putin almost said, almost quoting Stalin. Think Sergei Ivanov is probably a bit too high-profile, too much of a “political” figure. He might make a fairly decent Pres, but my guess would be a more adminstrative/technocratic figure, perhaps with some involvement with United Russia, and/or perhaps with some other background in the state apparatus.
And this essentially non-democratic (but – also more or less consensual – as the “liberal”/pro-business opposition are generally discredited and out-of-touch with most of the electorate, while the post-communist/CPRF/Motherland types are fractuous, and the LPDR are not really a cohesive force, and, except perhaps in a couple of oblasts, never were, have little to offer beyond occasional wild rants and policy-floating measures) probably reflects what a significant proportion of Russians would want to happen with regard to the leadership of their country.
Of course, other things could intervene: the North Caucasus isn’t likely to get any more stable, thanks to current policies, and the more recent clamp-downs on Finno-Ugric peoples/cultures could provide a new source of dissent elsewhere.
But I’d say that a genuinely multi-candidate election (ie. one where the result is not highly predictable in advance) in 2008 is as unlikely as a Russian “colour revolution”, not least because the reputation of those that occured in Georgia (especially) and Ukraine, never high in RUssia, may well be worse, internationally too.
As for candidates, I noticed that former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has announced that he definitely will stand in the 2008 Presidential election (assuming he hasn’t been thrown in jail for property fraud before then, of course).
But more generally, I think that it is too soon to be looking seriously at Presidential candidates. Like Venichka, I don’t think current analysts have any greater idea of who will be the next Russian President than Kremlinologists of old had any idea of who would become the next leader of the Soviet Union.
I’d imagine that, right now, pretty much every politician, and senior public figure in Russia is casting one eye on the 2008 election and assessing his chances. The biggest question they’ll be asking themselves is probably whether they would be best served by ingratiating themselves with the current administration in the hopes of becoming the ‘official’ candidate, or whether they think the chances of standing on a ‘revolutionary’ ticket are stronger.
I’d have to say that, as things stand today, my best assessment is that the next President will come from within the current Kremlin circle, but at the same time we have to remember that this is Russia, where two years in politics is the equivalent of several eternities in the real world, so I wouldn’t bet the house on it.