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  Landscape before the start

Vadim Dubnov
2007 05 02

Although the pre-election parliamentary race in Russia will start only in a few months, and even more months are left until the presidential elections, the key interested persons are persecuted by a feeling of near upshot. President Putin, while defending from his enemies in Western capitals, might say: according to all laws of democracy, anyone can become president of Russia.

And this wouldn’t be a lie. The current president might serve a third consecutive term. The high post might also be taken by one of the assumed successors and vice prime ministers – Sergei Ivanov or Dmitry Medvedev,  one of the representatives of the Kremlin groups – V.Jakunin or D.Kozak, the recently appointed minister of defense A.Serdiukov or another vice prime minister S.Narishkin. However, the Kremlin has not yet chosen the strategy for selection of one or another successor, since the name of a candidate is an option of the strategy.

The problem is that none of the possible strategies can be announced as official: victory of one grouping (in case if supporters of the cast-offs do their best) might bring the elite to nowhere and the country - into a complete turmoil.

The group supporting the third presidential term of V.Putin consists of representatives of hardline faction (Siloviki) lead by I.Sechin. This grouping does not expect the successor to change the direction in principle – so far they talk only about the perspectives of high-rank players. Siloviki, i.e. Gazprom, Rosneft etc. should retain their positions. After a defeat of the upspringing Sechin-Ustinov axis, this grouping has lost strong candidates to successors, therefore any other successor for them is political death.

Part of the hardline faction supports S.Ivanov. People from a conditionally liberal part of authorities are also prepared to work with him. Besides, there is still time to introduce S.Narishkin, a person with the special services past, who turned out to be a subtle player when was the head of the state apparatus.

Choice from nearly equal candidates is not antagonistic. They are all loyal to the current style of the Russian authorities. The only difference between them is operational technologies.

Strange as it is, they consider the extension of a circle of favorites when only one year is left until the elections and the above circle should be reduced. However, it is not possible since a key guarantee for success of a selected candidate is stability. This stability might fade away if part of the Russian elite becomes loyal to a successor having no alternative.

Most probably the above predetermined the appearance of a strategy, crowned by the creation of Fair Russia as a counterbalance to the United Russia. The Kremlin decided to transform the unavoidable collision of the Russian political elite into a legitimate two-party system. However, this also does not facilitate forecasting of the presidential upshot.

Therefore all possible options are being elaborated at the same time, including a possible third term. However, the most astonishing thing is that society does not bother about it anymore. It agrees in advance with any option. According to the data of the Centre for Public Opinion Research (VCIOM), the rating of president exceeds 50 per cent, and in case of the reelection mass protests are not envisaged. The idea of replacement of personality is not interesting to the Russian citizens either; they only want the president to pursue the same political direction. It does not matter who is elected – the most important thing is to prevent from cheap money and retain Russia’s as a super-state’s image.

However, the late sociologist J.Levada has taken into account another sociological alternative:  currently the Russian citizens are more inclined to give preference to personal security and success and push aside the so called state interests. Having a critical approach towards their authorities, they do not believe in major changes; consequently, they do not bother about the final decision of the Kremlin.

In view of this, the elections are significant only to the disunited authorities and its interests. Whereas the nation would accept any situation.

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