NHK (Japan): the formation of Putin’s new design of their power in a pandemic coronavirus

In Russia, on June 24, assigned to the military parade in honor of the 75th anniversary of victory over Germany, and on July 1 will be a nationwide vote on amendments to the Russian Constitution. Meanwhile, the pandemic of coronavirus in the country has not yet ended. Why Putin goes hard on these two important events? This was in the “Column browser” we continue to talk to a famous journalist, political commentator on television and radio Corporation NHK Ichiyo Ishikawa.

In Russia the situation with coronavirus continues to remain quite serious. Why is President Putin so strongly holds a military parade and a vote on the Constitution?

— I think that Putin is concerned not to lose the political initiative.

Meanwhile, the popular vote in the country beset by a pandemic of mers in itself is very dangerous. Yes, indeed, the number of identified coronavirus-infected people in Russia is declining. Now new cases are registered every day at least 8000, while more recently this figure has exceeded 10,000 people. But mostly this is because we managed to significantly reduce the number of cases in Moscow — to the level of a little more than 1,000 people a day. And the rest of Russia, the pandemic still rages. Comes to the fact that in some regional electoral commissions engaged in ballot, some of their members are boycotting the event.

Why Putin is so “fixated” on these amendments to the Constitution?

From the very beginning, President Putin defines the vote not as a national event in support or disapproval of amendments, but as a plebiscite on the support of his own government. As you know, the most important amendments to the Constitution are the extension of the powers of the state Duma, giving the status of official state authority of the state Council and the restriction of presidential terms to two consecutive terms. However, the amendment contains a provision on the “zeroing” of the previous terms of Putin’s presidency. Thus, it systematically opens the path to finding the position of President for another two terms after 2024. But to implement this plan to it to the extreme necessary to obtain a high level of support of the people. Under the influence of coronavirus he already went to the postponement of the vote. Next cannot be postponed.

What is the meaning of the new political strategy of Putin?

— It’s quite cleverly combines the issue of confidence in himself personally with the thesis about the transformation of Russia into a “socially oriented state”. It exploits the idea about the restoration of the Russian nationality and mentality, which are based on love of neighbor and patriotism. Putin declares: “the Union in the Constitution of the peoples and the history of our country naturally. I am sure that the vast majority of Russians support this position.”

In connection with the pandemic in the amendments to the Constitution of a much higher sound got questions of people’s welfare, medicine and education. The General idea of “socially oriented state,” Putin deftly obscures the fact that the vote is first and foremost a question of people’s trust to him personally.

In this regard, the opposition points to the fact that the vote is an event on the strip for Putin’s path to the presidency until 2036 and urges people not to go to a vote or to vote against the amendments. According to the survey “Levada-center”, at present the amendments to the Constitution are set up 44% of voters, as against 32%. At the same time, the authorities need to achieve figures of 60% turnout and 60% voted for the amendment. Will she be able to achieve such performance, is now under a big question. If the turnout and votes in favour will be less 60%, Putin’s credibility will suffer.

– Forcing if the pandemic coronavirus current government to any changes?

— First of all, now there is growing evidence that the system of personal power of Putin — a kind of “one-man-show” — begins to undergo some erosion. In this context, it is necessary to mention “factor Sobyanin,” which from the beginning of the pandemic came to a Central position in the organization deal with it. He insisted on hard countermeasures, the mode of self-isolation, quarantines, training a large number of specialized hospitals, etc. If not for Sobyanin, Moscow could well suffer the fate of new York, and the situation here could have been no less tragic. It is also significant that the mayor had advocated the spread of strict quarantine measures on the whole of Russia. He became a major for the antiviral activities of the state Council of the country. Exactly Sobyanin ultimately insisted on taking the valid to date of the strategy — conducting the broadest possible campaign to test for coronavirus for the early detection of patients. The mayor also not afraid to enter in the capital of hard mode isolation, though he knew all the negative economic consequences of such decisions. However, they gave a positive effect, which again showed the high performance managerial competencies Sobyanin.

What is the place of the mayor in the existing structure of the Russian government?

— The mayor does not belong to those members of Putin’s inner circle, who are originally from St. Petersburg or the security forces. In the 90-ies he worked as a Governor of one of the most important oil-producing regions of Siberia. Since 2005 was the head of the presidential administration. In 2008 he played a very important role in “operation on assignment” posts of President and Prime Minister between Putin and Medvedev. Worked under Putin is Prime Minister as the head of the government apparatus. Here he was closely involved in major political processes. Then, led by the mayor of Moscow, showing themselves as a good crisis Manager, but also in the “pacification” of the Moscow opposition. It was highly appreciated by Putin.

Along with Sobyanin on the background of the fight against the pandemic greatly increased the political weight and a number of other regional leaders. The case reached the unheard of: the head of a more than 10 Russian regions due to pandemic coronavirus has refused to host a military parade. Among them are those, who heads the subjects of the Federation, on whose territory were the most fierce battle of the war of the USSR with Germany.

In the context of all this, in Putin’s entourage, there are prominent politicians who are not happy “exaltation” of Sobyanin. But Putin’s system of power is based on the balance of “checks and balances” between the various political elites.

In view of the upcoming popular vote on the amendments to the Constitution in Moscow was downplayed antiviral measures and restrictions. Among the observers of rumors that the highest political power was exercised strong pressure on the mayor Sobyanin, who advocated the extension of the hard mode fight against coronavirus.

So what, Putin seeks to continue the tenure of the President of Russia and after 2024? Will it upset his plans?

President Putin considers the most important to ensure stability in Russia. He is not pursuing the goal of creating opportunities for extending its authority and ensure stability of the transition and subsequent system continue their authority. It is possible that the stability of the Putin regime needs in order to transition temporarily to transfer their power to another person, then again to return to the top post in the country. But for any such option Putin must seek a high level of support of the people. Thus, Putin’s system of power is highly dependent on this factor.

And Vice versa. If Putin’s support people will be significantly reduced, his very existence as President would be to mode a high-risk factor. In addition, in this scenario, the country will almost certainly seriously raise the head of opposition to their protests. And finally, in the Russian political elite could weaken Putin is so necessary centripetal tendencies that are already visible on the example of the mayor Sobyanin.

In short, at present, almost with certainty we can say that in the system of the sole reign of Putin — this “one-man-show”, there are tendencies that make it very unstable.

Ichiyo Ishikawa, a famous Japanese journalist, member of the group of political observers of the Japanese state radio and television Corporation NHK. In 2002-2007 — chief of the NHK news Bureau in Moscow. Since 2007 member of the panel of reviewers NHK, 2010 — head of the group. A frequent lecturer as an expert on Russia and the former Soviet Union and security issues. Acted as moderator of the St. Petersburg and the Eastern economic forums.