Putin Legacy to Live on?
As the march presidential elections in Russia draw near, it becomes more apparent that the facade of democracy in Russia will soon fade away.
The run-up to the election has been a spectacle, complete with a disappearing and reappearing candidate and President Vladimir Putin’s sudden dismissal of his prime minister and cabinet at the end of February.
Putin has been favored to win, especially since the United Russia party, which supports Putin, gained control of Russia’s parliament in elections last December—a majority that allows it to make constitutional changes.
In early February, Russia’s parliament considered extending the presidential term to seven years and increasing the number of terms a president could serve. (Currently, Russia’s constitution allows a president only two consecutive four-year terms.)
Though the Duma decided against the extension, and Putin publicly stated that he was against the idea (albeit saying a five-year term would be acceptable), Russia’s leader may have other plans to extend his influence past a second term.
In a speech to campaign supporters, Putin noted that he would, as a responsible president, choose a successor at the end of his second term; thus, if the people of Russia supported that candidate, there would be a “continuation of what there is now” (Moscow Times, February 13). Putin clearly does not want his influence to end—even if required to leave at the end of this term.
For a democracy, which Russia claims to be, this one man wields enormous power. December’s parliamentary elections, according to many in the West, were “free, but not fair” (www.stratfor.com, February 10). It seems March’s elections will have a similar flavor. Putin has reaped the benefit of extensive media coverage. Referring to Putin’s first campaign speech, one independent political analyst commented: “[S]tylistically, it’s ‘back in the ussr’” (Moscow Times, op. cit.).
Putin’s recent political maneuverings provide further evidence of the totalitarian nature of Russian government once again emerging. Refer to Gerald Flurry’s cover story in the January 2004 Trumpet for more details.