How long can Putin hold on to power?
Vladimir Putin announced last week that he will run for the Russian presidency for a fourth time in March 2018. His victory is seen as already guaranteed. How long can the Russian leader maintain his grip on power?
Young generation has had enough of stagnation
Vladimir Putin could face opposition from young Russians who see no hope for the future, the Irish Times writes:
“Putin cannot change now. That would be tantamount to admitting error, which would embolden opponents whom he claims want to plunge Russia into chaos. He made the claim during his annual televised press conference last week, while pledging again to do all the things he has overlooked since 1999. The people who will really change Russia were not watching - a generation that gets its information online and has no memory of the post-Soviet turmoil that fed a national craving for Putin's brand of 'stability'. Stagnation is what Putin means to many young Russians, and they may not settle quietly for another six years of it.”
The man can't be voted out
Russian journalist Semen Novoprudski paints a grim picture of the country's future under Putin in the Ukrainian weekly Novoye Vremya:
“Putin, who has not focussed on developing the economy or created any proper state institutions, has turned into a garden-variety lifelong dictator who can't be removed from office by democratic elections. Now the two options for the near future are as follows: Either his extremely heterogeneous entourage will initiate Russia's step-by-step return to the bed of Western civilisation to ensure its own survival. Or the 'collective Putin' will once again haunt the global news chronicles as author and ideas man for new hybrid wars with real victims.”
Trauma from the 1990s keeps Putin in power
Putin will remain president for as long as it takes for the Russians to get over the trauma they experienced in the 1990s, 24 Chasa believes:
“The simple folk had to put up with so much from the senile, permanently drunk Yeltsin and his blithe band of oligarchs that the mere thought of them still keeps them awake at night. The people look up to Putin as their saviour and the father of the nation. Putin's star will only sink when the simple Russians have forgotten the 1990s. But this won't happen by next year. Putin will receive a new mandate on March 18 and remain in power until 2024. But if he then changes the constitution again as he has already done in the past, he could well stay in power until 2030.”
The Frankfurter Rundschau isn't at all surpised by Putin's decision:
“Many are already wondering whether in 2024 Putin will withdraw from active life at 71 or whether he will try to beat Joseph Stalin's record of 31 years in power. Whatever the case, his style of governing clearly follows the Soviet tradition. He meets up with youths and collectives. The country's foreign affairs are dominated by a new cold war. On the economic front Brezhnevian stagnation rules the day. And Russian nurses are worrying about 'Who will lead the country after Putin is gone?' His rule is open-ended; Brezhnev and Stalin's grip on power was only broken by death.”
Challengers without a chance
The upcoming election campaign won't bring any exciting developments, gazeta.ru concludes:
“A lack of motivation to even go to the polls holds sway among the moderately liberal opponents of the state power. The candidacies of TV presenter Ksenia Sobchak or business ombudsman Boris Titov are hardly likely to motivate them to vote. At least as things stand now, because despite the candidates' activeness their poll ratings haven't moved beyond the level of a statistic measurement error. In other words: there is no doubt about who will win the upcoming elections. ... As the election campaign kicks off the only suspense revolves around the question of what Putin's end result will be.”
A president cut off from reality?
The mood in Russia could soon change, Les Echos' Russia correspondent Benjamin Quénelle counters:
“Putin's carefully staged announcement of his candidacy, after that of the 'pseudo' opposition figures who are meant to add a touch of showbiz to the election campaign, will help [the Russian people] to forget their worries for a while. Although the polls are reassuring regarding the president's popularity, they are alarming regarding the general mood in the country. Ordinary citizens and businessmen alike have the feeling that the system is only working to preserve itself, without putting any effort into modernisation. 'Everything is going to be all right', Vladimir Putin regularly states on television and at political events. As if he were cut off from the reality that could ultimately topple him from power.”