In a shocking turn of events, young political upstart Vladimir Putin announced on Wednesday that he will be seeking election as president of the Russian Federation. A bright-eyed, fresh-faced youngster, the 65 year-old Putin is relatively new to politics, having only served as the country’s president or prime minister every year since 1999. I think the kid might just have a chance.
In reality, Putin’s announcement came as no surprise. He has maintained an iron grip on power throughout this century, having served as Russia’s leader longer than anyone except Josef Stalin. That’s good company right there. Putin even had to have the Russian Constitution rewritten in 2008 to stay in power. In a move that smacked of oligarchy, Putin reclaimed the presidency when his trusted ally Dmitry Medvedev stepped aside.
And now, the world is probably in for six more years of Vlad. Putin’s approval ratings usually hover around 80 percent. There is no candidate who can realistically threaten his job; opposition figures have been jailed and even killed. Alexei Navalny, a prominent anti-corruption blogger, is not even allowed to file election paperwork, due to a trumped-up fraud charge that the European Court of Human Rights described as “arbitrary and unfair.” Other opposition candidates are simply inexperienced, like socialite Ksenia Sobchak. Some critics are even calling her campaign a state-sponsored scam, considering the fact that Sobchak is the daughter of Putin’s political mentor.
The Russian political system is basically hand-crafted to return Putin to the presidency in March. Russian state television will certainly play a role. A recent study showed that 72 percent of Russians use Channel One, a state-affiliated network, as their primary source of news. The channel paints an uncritical picture of Putin and selectively covers mass protests, giving viewers a heavily biased view of the political landscape.
While announcing his re-election bid at an automobile plant in the city of Nizhny Novgorod, Putin didn’t seem worried about his chances, saying, “I am sure that we will be very successful.” Successful at what exactly? Voter suppression? Catching big fish? I’m sure that he will be very successful, too.
The real question is, what happens after Putin’s next term is up in 2024? Will there be yet another change to Russian law? Will Putin groom a successor? With Russian elites jockeying for power in preparation for the eventual power vacuum, the situation is volatile.
Speaking of potential successors, we have this guy over here who would be great. He already loves Russia and he has executive experience. We would love someone to take him off our hands.