One day someone will succeed Putin… But who?

Do Alexei Navalny lost the fight? The Muscovites, who came to Tverskaya street on June 12 had a long time to find the famous opposition among the barricades and catapults, his supporters were without their leader in the middle of reconstruction of historical battles. Himself Navalny was detained right at his house. After 14 hours sitting next to spears was raised posters like “Russia without Putin” and “Medvedev is on trial.” At this point, fun event turned into a real brawl. Armed with batons, police arrested 700 people across the capital.

Russia’s fate is inextricably linked with the future of its President, Vladimir Putin. A former KGB agent continuously in power since 1999. According to the Constitution, he could not again stand as a candidate in 2008 and lost to the post protégé, Dmitry Medvedev, who immediately appointed him Prime Minister. Four years later, the roles reversed again. In 2018, Mr Putin will be able to compete for the second and last mandate, after which will have to leave or find another way to hold the reins. Then he will be 71 years old.

During the last June 15, the annual shows with the participation of the head of state, he vaguely spoke about his future: “first, I’m still working. Secondly, I want to say that this should be determined by the voter, the Russian people.” Although about his re-election there is no doubt, and the main opposition leader Alexei Navalny out of the race because of two court decisions, Putin has to deal with fatigue some people. After the question about the number of “dissatisfied” on the screen live, a number sent by the Russians acrid SMS: “good-bye, Vladimir Vladimirovich,” “Putin, do you really think that people believe in this circus with bogus questions?”, “Three terms of presidency is enough!” But who can benefit from this dissatisfaction? The war for Putin’s legacy has begun.

The opposition

13 June in Moscow, a light rain was falling. A day after opposition demonstrations on the streets of the Russian capital was not a trace of her. The last of its echoes are heard only in the court rooms and social networks. Sentenced to 30 days of Alexei Navalny have got an old record about the corruption of power, played the first year. “Not only that, they plundered the country, so I have the Depeche Mode concert in Moscow miss” — ironically he wrote on Twitter. Detainee “in three minutes,” opposition leader Ilya Yashin, in turn, was given 15 days.

In total across the country was arrested 1 thousand 720 people. “Holding such events in a coordinated manner, as prescribed by law, for anybody does not represent any danger, — assured the press Secretary of the Kremlin Dmitry Peskov. Dangerous are provocative manifestation.” That fully applies to Alexei Navalny. “Unto the end of the year to achieve such high-level political conflict, to have his registration as a candidate from the point of view of the government was a lesser evil — the Director of the effective policy Foundation Gleb Pavlovsky. He showed that the degree of conflict is high, but they don’t have enough mobilized assets”.

Navalny, the founder of the very popular website “Rospil” is “a member of the opposition, whose program only one item: the fight against corruption, — said the expert on Russia and Professor at the University of liège Nina Bashkatova. — It does not make it a political alternative”. Although about his intentions to compete for the presidency in elections in March 2018, there is little doubt that the Russians will not be able adequately to rally around him,” she continues. It did not have a unifying force even among the opposition: “the last demonstration was only Yashin, while all the other politicians prefer to stay away. Bulk cannot become a rally point that everyone is waiting for”. “The recent wave of demonstrations too far apart that they could combine the single leader”, — said Russian journalist and member of Carnegie Andrey Kolesnikov.

In any case, Navalny will be able to nominate “a miracle,” said the representative of the Central election Commission, Ella Pamfilova. The lawyer was detained during a demonstration in March, and he is involved in two major corruption cases. In 2013 he was accused of the embezzlement of 400 thousand euros in the company “Kirovles”. The sentence of five years in prison eventually replaced with a conditional sentence. It is also necessary to add three and a half year suspended sentence for alleged fraud with “Vostok”, the Russian subsidiary of Yves Rocher. These are considered serious offences which, by law, do not allow him to be elected.

“United Russia”

During the municipal elections in 2013, Navalny gained 27% of votes in Moscow, which was an impressive result from the point of view of the hegemony of the representatives of the majority. However, the victory went to the candidate of “United Russia” Sergey Sobyanin. Although Vladimir Putin is not officially a member, she has consistently supported it since inception in December 2001. “United Russia” was formed to support the Central Executive power against the two foci of opposition, which was in the past decade, the lower house of Parliament and governors of the regions,” explains researcher French University College in Moscow, Clementine Faconnee (Clémentine Fauconnier).

In the first message to the Federal Assembly in July 2000, the President laid the theoretical foundations of this rule: “We have convinced ourselves: the authorities’ indecision and the weakness of the state reduce economic and other reforms. The government must rely on the law and formed in accordance with it, the single Executive power vertical”. After 17 years, the Putin regime from the opposition is almost nothing left, says Nina Bashkatova. “The two main opposition parties in Parliament, the Communist party and the liberal democratic party is still the same leaders since 1993 Gennady Zyuganov and Vladimir Zhirinovsky”. Third party, Yabloko, headed by Grigory Yavlinsky, man, “which never anybody is not agreed”.

As for opposition from civil society, they have, apparently, there are only three options: prison, exile or death. After the mass demonstrations against election fraud in 2011 and 2012, the oligarch, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, ended up in London, moved to a policy chess player Garry Kasparov moved to the United States, and the young leader of the “Left front” Sergei Udaltsov to four and a half years in prison for “plotting a coup”. Former Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, one of the main leaders of the opposition along with Navalny, was murdered in February 2015. His death followed the death of oligarch Boris Berezovsky’s lawyers, Sergei Magnitsky, and Stanislav Markelov, a former intelligence agent Alexander Litvinenko, journalists Anna Politkovskaya, Natalia Estemirova and Anastasia Baburova, Deputy Sergey Yushenkov…

Apart from all this, Russian policy is the “lack of updates due to co-opting elites and fear of everything new, says Nina Bashkatova. — The longer Putin remains in power, the more powerful, heavy and inhibiting the sclerosis”. “The situation is not bad enough for the Russians turned to someone else, the more contenders there.” Putin and his entourage, “apparently, is very happy formed their system and see no reason to change it”, — emphasizes Andrey Kolesnikov. Anyway, in 2024 he will be forced to concede the presidency, because, according to the Constitution, it should not take more than two consecutive terms.

Silent step

Russia intends once again to massively support the President. According to a November 2016 polling, his approval rating is still 86%. At the same time, his shiny halo of a few pales against the background of a deteriorating situation in the economy in response to falling oil prices and economic sanctions by Western countries. 29% of respondents believe that over the past time, the image of the President was seriously injured. However, “the economy is not as bad as expected, says Nina Bashkatova. — The only thing that can stop Putin to stand as a candidate in 2018 — health problems. Since 2012 we have heard many stories, including the most that neither is melodramatic, but nothing worthy of trust. He is convinced that his duty to continue.”

When the script his departure will attain a concrete form, everything points to the fact that the candidate of “United Russia” will call it. “All, no doubt, will be known only at the last moment — sure Nina Bashkatova. The uprising here is almost unthinkable, because Putin is playing the role of a balancer provides a balance between various currents in the presidential administration”. Although before the parliamentary elections in the country held primaries for the presidential, nothing like this is planned. Given the coexistence of different currents, the one who will receive the blessing of Putin, will have to show the same spirit of Association. “He doesn’t have to be popular: it will be, because Russia is dominated by a paternalistic vision of the government,” said Nina Bashkatova.

Rather than creating a new entity, the government recently removed some old ones. So, in 2016, economic development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev, head of the Federal customs service Andrei Belyaninov and the Governor of the Kirov region Nikita Belykh was removed from office because of corruption charges. “New subordinate more loyal to the head of the state: they owe everything to him and therefore can’t afford to go against him,” — says Andrey Kolesnikov. Vladimir Putin also got rid of the head of his administration Sergei Ivanov. “He didn’t have presidential ambitions, said Nina Bashkatova. — In this respect there are many theories, because we are not aware of the relationship between officials”.

To replace Ivanov came diplomat of Estonian origin Anton Vaino. This 45-year-old father of the family is a more likely candidate for the top job than older leaders like foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (67 years) or the mayor of Moscow Sergey Sobyanin (58 years). “Many thought that it will be the current Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, but it seems to me that he was a little tired after faithful service, — said Nina Bashkatova. — He never puts himself first and does not like to do that.”

The heirs

In any case, “it is important to have proximity to the presidential administration,” she continues, stating that “fasting is not decisive”. From among the members of the government of the heir called defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. This former negotiator in South Ossetia, Tajikistan and Chechnya was named as the main “star” of former President Boris Yeltsin to transfer his post to Putin. In 2001, he joined the triumvirate of leaders of the “United Russia” and became the Minister of emergency situations. In 2012, he was appointed Governor of the Moscow region and Minister of defense. It was he who led the annexation of Crimea, intervention in Syria and military cooperation with Iran. However, in 2024 he will be 69 years old.

Anyway, the government has another candidate, which is relatively young (57 years) and boasts considerable flexibility. Igor Sechin, Deputy Prime Minister and the President of “Rosneft”, “is one of the key persons in Putin’s entourage,” — said Nina Bashkatova. “The impact of this long-standing ally of the President has increased markedly in recent years”, adds Andrey Kolesnikov. They both first worked for the KGB, and then met again in the St. Petersburg mayor in the early 1990-ies. Their mentor was St. Petersburg mayor Anatoly Sobchak, who died in 2000 of a heart attack.

When Putin went to Moscow, he took with him only one man, Igor Sechin. He gradually rose to the top formed by the President of the management system, and can say say not only on the administrative appointments, but also energy issues. In 2008, he took the post of Vice-Premier, and four years later headed the Rosneft. The nickname “Darth Vader” and “Russian Richelieu” has stuck to Sechin, who is often called the second most powerful man in the country. Former Minister of economic development Alexei Ulyukayev can personally confirm this: according to the Russian press, Sechin demanded his removal due to the plans for privatization of the company “Bashneft”. Its successor, the Maxim Oreshkin (34) is considered a brilliant economist and a skilled politician.

According to Nina Bashkatova, “quite interesting” profile is, and Alexei Kudrin, another came from St. Petersburg policy. This disciple of Sobchak held the post of Finance Minister in 2000-ies, but was forced to resign in 2011 because of disagreements with then President Dmitry Medvedev. However, Putin himself, apparently not holding a grudge. As noted by the former Chairman of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation Sergey Aleksashenko, the Russian leader is based on people well-knows” and April 30, 2016 appointed Kudrin Deputy Chairman of the Economic Council under the President. In any case, his participation in the 2011 demonstrations showed that his loyalty has limits.

At the same time, a group of representatives around the President begins the subjugation of political power. Take former bodyguard of Putin Alexei Dyumin, which is received in 2016, the Governor’s office. The trajectory of his career resembles the path of the new Governor of the Kaliningrad region Anton Alikhanov (30 years). However, their positions are significantly weaker than the security officials like the speaker of the Duma Vyacheslav Volodin and his successor as Deputy head of the presidential administration Sergei Kiriyenko. “For them all — racing, — says Andrey Kolesnikov. — However, Putin may well find someone from the second or third round”. Putin himself soared to the top before becoming Yeltsin’s successor. The one who will replace him, will not have much time to prepare.

“In 2018, Putin would be in fact the only candidate,” — says the Director close to the Kremlin Institute for political studies Sergei Markov. But then the situation may be complicated. “2018 will be the starting point for painful economic reforms, which would be a heavy blow for a large part of the population”, — said the head of the Center for political technologies Igor Bunin. In this case, the protest can manifest itself, and until new elections.