Monday, October 1, 2007

Putin's Plan To Retain Power?

On October 1, 2007, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday he would lead the dominant party's ticket in December parliamentary elections and suggested he could become prime minister, the strongest indication yet that he will seek to retain power after he steps down as president early next year.

The Russian constitution prevents Putin ifrom seeking a third consecutive term in the March presidential election, but has strongly indicated he would seek to keep a hand on Russia's reins.

He agreed to head the United Russia party's candidate list in December, which could open the door for him to become a powerful prime minister, leading in tandem with a weak president.

He said that, first, United Russia would have to win the Dec. 2 elections and a "decent, competent, modern person" must be elected president.

Putin's agreement to top the candidate list of United Russia sent an ecstatic cheer though the crowd at a congress of the party, which contains many top officials and dominates the parliament and politics nationwide. The move will likely ensure that United Russia retains a two-thirds majority in the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, enough to change the constitution.

The White House took note of Putin's move and said it was ultimately a matter for the Russian people.

Leading the party's ticket does not mean Putin will take a seat in parliament; prominent politicians and other figures often are given the top spots to attract votes, but stay out of the legislature after elections. The 450 seats in the Duma will be distributed proportionally among parties that receive at least 7 percent of the votes.

The popular Putin has repeatedly promised to step down at the end of his second term in May, as the constitution requires, but has suggested he would maintain significant influence. He offered some initial hints at his strategy last month when he named Viktor Zubkov — a previously obscure figure known mainly for his loyalty — as prime minister.

With no power base of his own, Zubkov would likely play his preordained part in any Putin plan. If he became presiodent and Putin prime minister, Zubkov could be expected to cede specific powers to Putin or step down to allow him to return to the presidency. If he becomes prime minister, Putin would be first in line to replace the president if he is incapacitated.

Putin has amassed authority as president, but as he prepares to step down he has been setting up a system of check and balances that would weaken his successor by putting him at the mercy of rival centers of power. By leading the United Russia party list, Putin instantaneously creates the strongest such center, with himself as its head.

1 comment:

Pete said...

Under Putin Russia is again becoming a stable major power. The West may be uneasy at the rapidity of Russian growth but realizes it is better to have stable leadership under Putin than the risk of instability under a new Yeltsin style popularist.

Stability is essential because Russia has so many nuclear weapons but also (and more recently) Russia is helping to stabillize the world energy market.