21 July, Vladimir Putin, answering the question of Russian students that he was going to do when I retire, said: “I haven’t decided whether to leave the post of President.”
In March 2018, Putin will again participate in the presidential race and will win. His trust rating is over 80%, and the Russian opposition — has long been relegated to the background. In the case of Putin’s victory in the election, his next term would end only in 2024. By the time he turns 72 years.
Working in 1980-ies in the Soviet Union, I saw that it was impossible to remove ineffective political leaders from power. In the end, it led to stagnation and then collapse of the whole Soviet system. Repeat this scenario in modern Russia?
Follow the leader!
Given the problems facing today’s Moscow, it is understandable why Putin does not want to hand over the reins to a successor. World oil prices stuck at around $ 50 per barrel, the Russian economy has almost stopped growing. Moreover, Russia is still under Western sanctions imposed after the annexation of Crimea in 2014. However, by 2024, the problem of finding a successor will be relevant again.
The Constitution requires that Putin stepped down after two presidential terms in a row. But this issue elegantly decided back in 2008, when Putin’s protégé, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev took over as President. Putin returned to the presidency in 2012, apparently realizing that Medvedev is not so good in governing the country.
Now analysts are wondering whether the political system created under Putin, be maintained after his departure. Many believe that the government is so strongly tied to Putin and his entourage that the other person just won’t be able to replace it. A lot is at stake. It is likely that the next day after the departure of the current Russian leader, the Kremlin will start events like those that took place in the 90-ies in Russia.
However, it is important to remember that Putin is not the head of a single ruling party, as it was in the Soviet Union. Russian journalist Mikhail Zygar compares the President of the Russian Federation with a broker, balancing the interests of competing clans of oligarchs, regional bosses, the siloviki and the technocrats. These are the people that brought Putin to power, and without the cooperation with which, in Russia, nothing happens.
There are the rules of the game. The oligarchs stay out of politics, and thus protected from seizure of their assets by the state.
For many years Putin has skillfully expanded its powers, but it has its limits. Russian analysts speak of a “collective Putin” or “Politburo 2.0” — the people around the President, in whose hands is concentrated the power.
But in order to take their place in Russian history — and that Putin clearly craves — he should solve the problems with the successor. It needs to guarantee the personal security and wealth of Putin and his entourage. Apparently, Putin once promised the same to his predecessor Boris Yeltsin and his family. Putin also probably the first “test” as the Prime Minister, before appointing him head of state. This is the path that the Russian President himself took place in 1999.
Dmitry Medvedev, the current Prime Minister of Russia, is unlikely to return to the presidency. He’s not a very popular figure. In addition, he recently became the hero of the documentary film investigation, directed by opposition leader Alexei Navalny detailing on Medvedev’s personal wealth, including, of owning a vineyard in Tuscany. Since the release of this film on YouTube in March 2017 it was viewed over 23 million times, which had a negative effect on the ratings.
However, in Russia there are three people that could potentially be successors to Putin.
The current defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. He is now the second most popular politician in Russia after Putin. But he has no experience in business and international politics.
Sergei Sobyanin, mayor of Moscow. He had previously headed the oil-rich province of Khanty-Mansiysk.
Yuri Trutnev, former Governor of the Perm region and the Minister of natural resources. Currently he is the Deputy Prime Minister, is an intelligent and reliable Manager.
By the way, as Shoigu and Sobyanin — can face problems due to their origin, since both come from small ethnic peoples. But many Russians have a lot of negative stereotypes about ethnic minorities. This can affect the ratings.
In any case, Putin should as soon as possible to create conditions for a peaceful transfer of power. That would be the best option for Russia.