With Ksenia Sobchak entering the race, and Alexey Navalny continuing his campaign trail though Russian regions, the presidential elections have finally become topic number one within Russian media and social networks. Nevertheless, one of the most important questions of this campaign is still unanswered: when Vladimir Putin will officially bid for his fourth term and how his new political platform will look like? We discussed this question with Russian political analyst Aleksandr Morozov.
Where is the Putin’s political platform going and what can we expect from his upcoming campaign?
In short, Putin does not need any program at all, this is the first and most important point. He is simply passing to the fourth term automatically, even if he does not offer anything to the public. Even if he does not offer anything to the ruling groups, he will pass to the fourth term without any problems and will stay in the position until the very end, in other words for 6 more years.
However, there is a bigger discussion which is independent of the electoral situation. Can the Kremlin formulate a long-term strategy for itself, regardless of the elections? Where is it all leading to in terms of the relations with the West and public expectations?
It is a bigger problem as everyone feels that the agenda that Putin has been implementing for the last 15 years is already fulfilled. He has built the country he wanted.
In my opinion, Putin will be concentrating exclusively on the following 3 tasks in relation to his fourth term:
1. To create conditions for the young generation.
To live somehow in the country, develop themselves and be in demand as people who have income and can be more or less secure in the future due to money, mortgage and status. It is an important issue as the current situation is unsteady.
2. To ensure the same feeling for the pensioners.
It is a very important moment as well. During the entire Putin’s rule, large numbers of people went to the public sector, law enforcement bodies and army counting on a long guaranteed life after some short periods of 10, 15 or 20 years in service. Putin cannot give up on these people. Because if he does so, he will be left, figuratively speaking, in the position of Gorbachev who forgot about people, and everything depreciated in the result of inflation or a monetary reform. This is, of course, a terrible thing that frightens the Kremlin and will frighten forever, so Putin has nothing to do but support these people.
3. Continue endless reforms implemented by the government.
It refers to the bank sphere, postal and railway reforms, etc.
Literally, the same situation was during the late Soviet period when the party, on the one hand, was trying to find some reforms which could remind the economic modernization, on the other hand, it was the young generation and the pensioners who they mostly were worried about.
This is the very essence of Putin’s program. What will be offered inside of it is probably still to be decided.
It is interesting that they decided to shift the target of their external policy, which has been built on the image of Putin as a military leader during his third term. Many are wondering how his fourth term will look like. Do you know what the next Putin would be like?
No, and this is the right question. All previous Putins had a very clear image. The latest, the Putin of the third term, had an image of the so-called sovereignty restorer. It is a fundamental idea which absorbed the entire nation: “ We are, Russia, will change our position in the external world, they will start respecting us, we have a new understanding of the global politics and our place in it”. Putin, of course, was the driver of this idea.
The fourth Putin has no image and it will not be created during the campaign. Neither Kirienko nor other political analysts or technologists will be able to create it. Because everything else is already completed. The vertical was restored during the first term, planning and building of a new economic modernization were done during the second term, and sovereignty was a topic of the fourth term.
I agree with the analysts who claim that Putin is entering his last term simply in the state of emptiness and senility, the late Brezhnev situation.
Within the experts’ community, there is a belief that this is the last Putin. Do you have such a feeling and where does it come from?
It is a difficult moment. Yes, on the one hand, we have such a feeling. Everyone feels that the horizon ends with the fourth Putin’s term. But the problem is that Putinism will not die after him. Putin is finite but Putinism may be not. This is the point.
After all, the Soviet Union collapsed in a result of a large number of circumstances and various personal stances. Such a combination is not always repeated in history. Nobody can say what will be the way out of Putin and how long Putinism will last after he leaves the stage.
I would say that in Russian society there is an element of nervousness and a sense that everything is somewhat vague. No one feels the precariousness of life, but everyone feels the uncertainty and great riskiness of the Kremlin’s political game.
Some people like it, many support it. Others feel that this game affects their lives and can undermine them. They worry about children and their own future. But even though they are worried, they are still ready to move further from Putin to the next phase.
And, ultimately, the future transition from Putin to the next form will be perceived as the leave of Pinochet, or as a transition from Franco. It’s not a matter of one day. This is a question of a slow transition, when, for example, the Francoans are still playing a big role and the other vision of society is slowly rising, and the balance between the old Francoists and the forces will not be immediately reorganized.