Tuesday, 18 December 2007
Putin's shadow looms still larger over Medvedev presidency
Given that the Guardian has been warning everyone for some time that Vladimir Putin does not intend to give up politics and that there will be two centres of power when the next President of the Russian Federation is elected, the paper’s surprise at Putin’s indication he will accept the position of Prime Minister under Medvedev is slightly excessive. It confirms my suspicion that despite repeated stern warnings in the western media, that there remains an incredulity that Putin really intends to take the path which he appears to be taking. We may have predicted it, but we didn’t really believe he would have the audacity to actually go through with it, if you will.
Putin does not intend merely to install his chosen lieutenant as president and then retire gracefully from politics to let his successor get on with things. He genuinely does intend to remain active and potentially undermine the authority of Dmitry Medvedev. He claims that no constitutional alterations will take place in order to redistribute power in favour of the Prime Minister. If such an undertaking is genuine it suggests that Putin will exercise a supervisory role over his charge. Such an arrangement requires Medvedev to remain subservient to Putin’s programme. If he wavers from that position a potentially damaging power struggle could well ensue.
Medvedev should comfortably win the presidential election in March. Inevitably though his mandate will be viewed as derived from Putin’s sponsorship and in many respects this view will indeed be correct. With Putin retaining a high profile position as the President’s Premier, Medvedev’s position will undoubtedly be undermined. For the time being this predicates that Russia’s politics will focus increasingly on personalities rather than on the institutions of government of which they are a part.