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  „To Be or Not to Be“ after V. Putin (II)

Viktor Denisenko
2007 06 06

First part of article

The issue concerning a confederate state of Russia and Belarus has not yet been clarified. The confederate agreement has not been signed and the common currency not introduced. It seems that the above ally will remain nothing but a propaganda farce. But who knows...

Firs of all the union of Russia and Belarus was evaluated as A. Lukashenka’s possibility to retain the power after becoming the president of a confederate state. However, having realized that Russia would deprive him of the common state power, A. Lukashenka consolidated his position as the president of Belarus and started hindering the process of merge with Russia.

Theoretically the appearance of a new confederate state today could be useful to V. Putin. However, due to unwillingness of Belarus to unify, Moscow might terminate provision of support to A. Lukashenka or do everything so as to replace him by another personality. On the other hand, the third presidential term of A. Lukashenka „following the will of the nation“ could be evaluated as a rehearsal of possible events in Russia.

Russia has nearly all relevant elements for realization of the Byelorussian scenario.

Firstly, the official authority is supported by the force structures. They have already started rehearsals by dispersing „the campaign of dissenters“.

Secondly, the majority of citizens of the country have trust in V. Putin. The established public initiative groups propagate ideas of the third term and referendum on the amendment of Constitution. However, this opportunity has not been used – if there is less than one year left before the elections, any referendums are prohibited.

If Russia decides to act according to the Byelorussian example, the response of the world and even Russia itself would be negative. Moscow would hardly dare to openly violate the laws – for V. Putin it is more important to sustain the illusion of democracy, therefore actions of his team would probably be more subtle, moreover that there is a real opportunity „to play fairly“.

In summer of 2006, A. Veshniakov, the then Chairman of the Central Election Commission of Russia, said that V. Putin, while having no possibility to run for president in 2008, might take part in the presidential elections of 2012. Will V. Putin wait until 2012? The recent actions demonstrate that his intentions could be of a more subtle nature.

One of the possible options could be as follows: the successor elected in 2008, can, after a year of presidency, start complaining that he is not able to rule the country „as was the case“ with V. Putin and withdraw from the post of his own free will. Then, the early presidential elections could take place in 2009 and then V. Putin would have the right to run for president again. By doing that V. Putin would guarantee „fair“ return to power in 2009 or 2010 before his popularity has vanished.

In view of the above tactics, it becomes clear why V. Putin avoids talks about his successor. Simply the successor must not exist. Now there are several candidates and no distinct favorite. D. Medvedev and S. Ivanov are mentioned most frequently. Society will have to choose between one of them (or someone else). After elections there will be discussions on whether an adequate successor has been elected and whether the hints of V. Putin have been understood properly on who should have the power. In this case withdrawal of a new president would simply confirm apprehensions of society that its choice was wrong and that there is no better president than V. Putin.

V. Putin cannot identify his successor since this would mean handing over the power and support of the nation. And positions of a new president should not be strong.

During the period of four years a new Russian president can obtain huge political capital and not be willing to hand over the power even during the elections of 2012.  Or he might reveal the truth about the tragedy of „Nord-Ost“, Beslan or other sensitive details of V. Putin‘s presidency, and this could destroy the „myth of V. Putin“. The power must be returned to V. Putin as soon as possible, although after a certain pause.

V. Putin has possibilities of retaining power by making no cardinal amendments to the Constitution, not violating national laws and adopted norms of democracy. Certainly, each combination is rather risky. The above combinations would not comply with the rules of „fair game“, however, this would hardly surprise anyone in Russia.

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