Putin on the eve of his fourth term

The Russians will elect a new president on Sunday - in all probability the old one. Nonetheless Europe's commentators find plenty to discuss: they explain how Crimea will vote, and ask how long Putin will remain in power. For some, the time has come for a reconciliation between the G7 and Russia.

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Echo of Moscow (RU) / 15 March 2018

Crimea is thankful

Blogger Alexander Gorny, who lives in Crimea, explains on radio broadcaster Echo of Moscow why Putin can count on triumphant results there:

“Russia has invested an enormous amount of funding in developing Crimea's infrastructure - and they were the right investments. ... Four years ago Putin saved Crimea from chaos and carnage; the peninsula could have lit up like a match. Many couch analysts on the mainland either don't understand this or don't want to admit it. For them, the Maidan and everything connected to it was a game with democracy and freedom of expression. Yet things could have gotten even worse than in Donbass. ... Today Crimea is an island of peace and development - and that is indisputably Putin's personal achievement.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) / 16 March 2018

This era, too, will come to an end

Although there is no doubt that the Russian president will be re-elected Rzeczpospolita is already looking ahead to the post-Putin era:

“'I've been looking for a successor ever since I came to power', Putin recently said in an interview. That could mean that the era of the 'collector of Russian lands' will end in 2024. ... Putin doesn't need to prove that he has the support of the population: the majority of Russians would go through fire and water for him. ... Nevertheless it's clear that Putin is losing support in big cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg. For that reason it will be particularly crucial for him to garner a large number of votes in the provinces.”

Novoye Vremya (UA) / 15 March 2018

Putin could follow China's lead

Is Putin already searching for a successor? Ukraine-based Russian journalist Yevgeni Kisselyov can only smile wearily in response. He writes in Novoye Vremya:

“I'm not so sure, and wouldn't be surprised if he decided to take the Chinese path. He said in an interview that he's never changed the Russian constitution and that he never will. That's not true: several very important things have already been changed. Yes, formally Putin was not the head of the country when the president's term of office was prolonged from four to six years and the legislature period of the State Duma was changed from four to five. ... Nevertheless Putin is always 'master of his words': When I want to, I give; when I want to, I take back what I've given. Today I won't change the constitution; tomorrow I will. So let's go on keeping tabs on events.”

Le Figaro (FR) / 15 March 2018

Make peace with Putin

It's time to put relations between Russia and Europe on a new footing, economist Laurence Daziano writes in Le Figaro:

“After almost ten years of growing mistrust between Europe and Russia that has led to a new arms race, a latent cyber war and murderous conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine, it's now time to think about how the two sides can end the crisis with their heads held high. A sustainable peace plan between the G7 and Russia could be prepared through a diplomatic initiative that opens up new perspectives for Moscow and takes into account both European and Russian interests. The precondition for such a diplomatic approach is to restore confidence by reintegrating Russia into the G7 - which means reactivating the G8.”

Le Quotidien (LU) / 14 March 2018

Why Russians feel grateful to Putin

Le Quotidien discusses why so many Russians support Putin:

“From a Western point of view the Kremlin's policies can be criticised on many counts: no freedom of the press, widespread corruption, homophobia, the systematic arrest of opposition politicians. ... But put yourself in the shoes of Russians who lived through the communist era and its collapse in 1991, who were filled with hope although their country was going to the dogs under Boris Yeltsin. Famine, poverty, hopelessly empty shelves at the grocery stores, insecurity exacerbated by the local mafias: day-to-day life for the average Russian was not always what it is today. ... How can you blame people for preferring the plague to cholera, particularly when they've already experienced cholera?”

Artı Gerçek (TR) / 14 March 2018

Putin's success also has its limits

Arti Gerçek sees things very differently, arguing that the circumstances that have arisen under Putin could have bitter consequences for Russians:

“In the Putin era the national income has reached new heights, but it still lags far behind that of the world's biggest economies, the US, China and Europe. Diplomacy was able to chalk up a few victories, but it dwindled owing to the immanent interests of Gazprom and has stalled since the events on the Crimean peninsula. In view of such imbalances in Russia it's clear why it's so difficult to preserve moral values. Corruption is rife throughout Russian society, and particularly in the upper classes. This could create future situations that even the boldest screenwriters couldn't dream up and which will be extremely difficult to deal with.”

Postimees (EE) / 15 March 2018

Election on the anniversary of Crimea annexation

The presidential election will take place on the fourth anniversary of the annexation of Crimea. Postimees hopes the West will continue to pay attention to the situation there:

“The only thing this election has in common with real elections is the name. It would be more fitting to call it an appointment - or a spectacle. ... The more interesting questions concern Crimea. Could its occupation have been prevented? Hardly. ... With the annexation of Crimea the post-Cold War era world order was destroyed. What will become of Crimea now is hard to say. Mainly it's to be hoped that the West - including Estonia - will not forget Crimea and eastern Ukraine. That's the least we can do.”

Radio Kommersant FM (RU) / 12 March 2018

Almost like Christmas

Shortly before the election the government has announced pay rises for doctors, university professors and scientists. Radio Kommersant FM explains why:

“The last week before the election has begun. So the authorities must do as many good things for the citizens as possible: clear away the snow, increase wages, install bulbs in stairways. ... Unfortunately they'll also demand that we go to the ballot box and vote for the right people, according to the motto: we were good to you and now you need to show your appreciation. But the economists warn: all year long they were saying money was tight, the budget wasn't elastic, times were hard - and suddenly salaries are increased to double the regional average? How does that fit in with macro-economic stability? But then again where's the problem? After all, the country doesn't hold elections every day; it can afford this once every six years.”

Echo of Moscow (RU) / 11 March 2018

Vote as a chance to protest

The exiled Putin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky writes in a blog entry published by Echo of Moscow how he participated in the election through a Russian diplomatic mission in Germany:

“The electoral commission gave me a ballot paper and, making full use of my civic responsibility, I wrote on it 'I'm sick and tired of Putin', photographed it and posted it on the Internet. Why? I always try to do what I recommend others should do. And now I'm calling for the elections to be closely monitored, for people to go out in protest and for them to vote for the candidate they would really like to see elected. And if you don't have one, write what you think belongs on the ballot paper, take a picture of it and post it on the Internet with a geotag. ... Unlike sitting at home on your couch that sends an extremely clear message to those in power and to one's fellow citizens - and it's an individual demonstration.”

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