20th April 2011,
Vladimir Putin’s constitutionally mandated speech to the Duma this morning once again provides additional evidence for our long-held view that the Russian 2012 Presidential elections will consist of an essentially contrived spot of “Putin Vs Medvedev” razzle-dazzle, designed both to keep the masses in check, and deepen the (not so far very successful) illusion of Russia’s “democratic turn” for the more gullible among potential foreign investors.
Although neither President nor Prime Minister has officially declared their candidacy, the language employed and themes covered by Putin this morning strongly imply a forthcoming announcement from the PM at some point over the next few weeks/months (Medvedev has already made similar noises).
In this regard, what was most interesting about today’s speech was Putin’s attempt to differentiate between his own “conservative” positions (stressing stability, social issues and sovereignty) and those of the “young reformer” Medvedev (liberalism, international co-operation, and modernization).
And yet, in reality there is little practical difference in terms of the policies that either candidate is likely to follow; both take their cue from the Russia 2020 policy document, first announced by Putin in February 2008 (i.e. just before Medvedev was elected). And in theory both seek to follow the ”innovation” scenario contained within it, which presupposes the development of a national innovation system, competitive human capital and regional development centers, and a comprehensive reform and investment programme.
So while Putin may have sought to present himself as a “conservative”, he also paid at least some lip service today the need to modernize Russia’s economy, improve the investment climate, fight corruption, increase labor efficiency, and indeed about the need for innovation.
Meanwhile if Medvedev were to gain a second term in office, he would almost certainly remain constrained in what he was able to achieve because of the influence of the PM, and those around him.
Whoever eventually wins, it has been evident for some months that the current system will remain in place – as well as the corruption and economic problems which are an integral part of it. However, with the recent rise in the oil price has come a renewed confidence for Putin and his backers (one of the implied messages of today’s speech was that the regime will soon have the cash to buy off any opposition within Russian society for the next few years). Subsequently, if Putin does decide to stand and the elections are not rigged to favour Medvedev (by no means impossible), he will almost certainly win.
Under these circumstances, “Putin Vs Medvedev” essentially heralds Vladimir Putin’s return to power next year, and on this basis Democratist now sees Putin returning to the Presidency in 2012.