Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Campaigning behind Kremlin walls

Neil MacFarquhar, writing in The New York Times, thinks the election that's important in Russia is the one in 2024, not 2018. I'd keep in mind the fact that Putin's party has a majority in the Duma that's large enough to change the constitution whenever it (and Putin) desires.

Putin’s Re-election Is Assured. Let the Succession Fight Begin.
Ask Russian analysts to describe the coming presidential election campaign, and their answers contain a uniform theme: a circus, a carnival, a sideshow.

What they do not call it is a real election.

With the victory of President Vladimir V. Putin assured, the real contest, analysts said, is the bare-knuckled, no-holds-barred fight to determine who or what comes after him by the end of his next six years in office, in 2024. What might be called the Court of Putin — the top 40 to 50 people in the Kremlin and their oligarch allies — will spend the coming presidential term brawling over that future.

When Mr. Putin confirmed last week that he would run again, he might as well have been firing the starting gun for the race toward his succession. He is barred by the Constitution from seeking a third-consecutive term, his fifth total, in 2024.

“The election itself does not matter at all,” said Gleb O. Pavlovsky, a
political analyst and former Kremlin consultant. The people around the president, he added, “are deciding the question of who they themselves will be after Putin. That is the main motive behind this fight: It is a struggle for a place in the system after Putin is gone.”…

This jockeying for power is expected to offer all the drama that the March 2018 presidential race sorely lacks. Cloistered, for now, mostly behind the Kremlin walls, the intrigues are expected to burst into public view with increasing frequency as the end of Mr. Putin’s next term approaches…

“You cannot hide the enormous tension, the enormous degree of uncertainty within the Russian elite,” said Konstantin Gaaze, who contributes political analysis to the website of the Carnegie Moscow Center, a policy research organization. “They will do stupid things; they will blackmail each other; they will write reports about each other and bring them to Putin.”…

“Today we have Putin’s Russia,” Mr. Pavlovsky said. “If Putin is gone, Putin’s Russia also has to go. That is also a dangerous situation. His entourage understands this and wants to preserve Putin’s Russia after he is gone.”

So the various factions within the Putin Court will seek to convince the president to name an heir apparent who best preserves their collective interests…

The more Mr. Putin becomes a lame duck, analysts said, the less influence he may have in choosing a successor and the more Kremlin insiders will assert themselves…

“What matters now is your own potential independent of Putin,” Mr. Pavlovsky said, “because the moment is rapidly approaching when Putin will not be able to help you.”

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