Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, July 10, 2017

The never-ending campaign

It might seem that political campaigning never ends in the USA. Vladimir Putin seems to be on a never-ending campaign himself.

Putin made a lot of promises to Russians on his call-in TV show. Now, he’s delivering
It was Russian President Vladi­mir Putin. In the flesh. Standing in front of the dilapidated wooden barracks where Anastasia Votintseva shares a single room with her sister and three children.

The Russian leader had come on Votintseva’s birthday, bearing flowers, gifts and good news. Soon, she and her family would have a new home. But first, they were going on a seaside vacation, courtesy of the Kremlin!

If that sounds like a fairy tale about a benevolent czar, it’s supposed to. Putin was delivering on a promise he had made June 15, when Votintseva was one of about 70 lucky Russians whose appeals he took during his annual televised call-in show.

The event, called “Direct Line,” is carefully staged to show that Russia’s head of state, who probably will seek a new six-year term next March, understands his people — and can solve their problems — better than ­anyone…

[A]s television cameras rolled outside Votintseva’s home 750 miles east of Moscow, Putin uttered clipped orders to the acting local governor… to move her family and 11 others to new housing by the end of the year. Then he kissed her, and handed her a huge bouquet of roses and a certificate for a free trip for five to Sochi, Russia’s Black Sea resort…

The important part of this display is not just the delivery of the goods; it’s the way that Putin projects his authority “by dropping responsibility on the irresponsible elite,” as the veteran Russian political analyst Lilia Shevtsova put it in a recent blog…

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