A Closing Argument

Only time will tell whether Vladimir Putin’s third presidency (2012-?) will be better or worse than his first two (2000-2008).  Today, we can at least say that in the past two months, Putin has become better presidential candidate.  Take a look.  In 2000, all Putin’s election campaign activities were limited to publishing a short (2,700 words) article in three newspapers.  The same in 2004: Putin’s whole campaigning was reduced to addressing a group of the trusted representatives with a 3,200-word speech one month before the election.

Not this time.  As a candidate, Putin has published seven lengthy assays outlining his views: on risks facing the country (3,400 words), on ethnic relations (3,600), on the economy (4,900), on democratic development (4,000), on social issues (6,500), on national security (6,300), and on foreign affairs (6,000).  He held public meetings with supporters, election observers, and members of the All-Russia People’s Front; he crisscrossed Russia shaking hands with regular voters.  Massive pro-Putin rallies have been organized in Moscow, St. Petersburg and all around the country.  Putin took part in one of them, at the Luzhniki Stadium, where he called on his supporters to be ready to die for Russia’s independence.  (If judged from TV coverage of the event, many in the audience were ready.)  At certain point, his election campaign seemed to even contemplate the idea of letting Putin to directly debate his opponents on live TV.  Eventually, the idea has been scrapped, and instead, the details of the Putin assassination plot hit the news.

This week, Putin held his final meeting with the trusted representatives, members of the Front, political scientists and the media.  He also gave an interview to editors-in-chief of six foreign newspapers.  Taken together, both events can be viewed as a closing argument of Putin’s election campaign.

These events also showed that despite visible improvements, Putin the candidate still has his weaknesses.  One of them is a poor ability to hold his ground under pressure: after being repeatedly asked by foreign journalists about the reasons behind his job “swap” with Medvedev, Putin got defensive and began dodging the question by lengthy referrals to previous successes of his economic policies.  (Surprisingly enough, Putin had no proper answer to the same question when asked, in much friendlier manner, by the member of the Public Chamber Anatoly Kucherena.)  Besides – and very uncharacteristically for the prime minister with his trade-mark command of facts and numbers – Putin made a couple of avoidable mistakes.  He called, twice, the governor of the Kirov region, Nikita Belykh, a representative of the Right Cause party (Belykh used to be Chairman of the Union of Right Forces).  Putin also opined that the Right Cause party has moved into the camp of “irreconcilable” opposition, a surprising note given the fact that the Right Cause has endorsed Putin for presidency.

All this doesn’t matter anymore: tomorrow Putin will be elected president in the first round of the vote and may never use his skills as presidential candidate again.  And in two short months, he’ll resume the leadership of the country whose stability he promised to uphold.  Did it occur to him that he might have undermined this stability by deciding to become presidential candidate?

About Eugene

My name is Eugene Ivanov. I was born in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, when Estonia was still part of the Soviet Union. In 1981, I received a Ph.D. in Genetics from St. Petersburg State University and for the next 20 years, I’ve been working in research labs in Russia, France, and the U.S. In 2003, I decided that I was done with science and went to work for a company specializing in open innovation and crowdsourcing. I live in Massachusetts and believe that one must protect the environment and Massachusetts Republicans. Politics has always been my passion, and after splitting my adult life almost evenly between Russia and America, I’m keenly interested in how political decisions are made in both countries. Naturally, I’m concerned about the state of U.S.-Russia relations and want to see them improved. Many men of my age go through what is routinely called a “mid-life crisis.” For some, it appears as acute interest in sport cars; for others, in young women. My mid-life crisis emerged as a realization that it wasn’t enough for me to just read, think and talk (to my wife) about politics. I felt that I must share my thoughts with other people. Hence this blog.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to A Closing Argument

  1. Alex says:

    Your last sentence was an excellent “closing argument” :)
    Cheers

  2. Eugene says:

    Thanks, now let’s wait for the verdict :)

  3. Alexander Mercouris says:

    Dear Eugene,

    I agree fully with this article. Let’s see now what happens tomorrow and what the protest movement does from now.

  4. Two points :
    I believe that his real campaign manifesto (with lots of words) in 2000 was “Russia at the Turn of the Millennium”. (I lazily haven’t got around to reading the latest batch but I do not expect to find much disagreement or change from the earlier program. Putin is remarkably consistent).
    Second he did tell the editors the reason for the return, and several times;.
    Here’s the third
    “I will repeat for the third time (the translation is clearly not coming across very well): he and I represent the same political force; we arranged that the presidency would be contested by whoever enjoyed the better standing and had the greater chance of winning”.
    You may not be convinced that’s the real reason, I may not be convinced, but he certainly told them.

    I still believe, despite his remarks about Kohl and the “last but one Cdn PM” (I guess he was thinking of Trudeau but Mackenzie King at 30+ years is the all-British system champion) that it would be better had he done a George Washington.
    But The Program will continue.

    (as to Belykh, even Putin with his mastery of details can be forgiven for mixing up ephemeral “liberal” parties. How many have there been?)

    • Eugene says:

      Thanks Patrick,

      Only a short comment on Belykh: he repeated the same mistake twice in two days. That means any of the following:

      1. He doesn’t know about the difference between the Right Force and the Union of Right Forces, and his staff doesn’t, either.
      2. His staff knows, told him, but he didn’t listen.
      3. His staff knows, but didn’t tell him.
      4. His staff knows and told him to repeat the same.

      None of the explanations looks attractive to me.

      Best,
      Eugene

  5. Augis Barkov says:

    Well, no matter how much I dislike Putin – I would welcome any changes.
    If he succeeded to be a better candidate, let’s hope that he can take off from here and become a better president?
    Who knows – miracles happen, right?

    • Eugene says:

      Agreed, miracles do happen. Sometimes, circumstances (like economic situation in the country) help miracles happen more often :)

      Best,
      Eugene

  6. Pingback: Official Russia | Russia: Putin as Presidential Candidate and as President-Elect

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s