Back to the USSR
By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, September 27On September 24, the speculation ended and what had been predicted for some time became official. United Russia, the party behemoth that dominates Russian political life, will nominate Vladimir Putin as their candidate for the Russian presidency in the March 2012 elections. The current President Dmitri Medvedev himself put Putin forward at a party conference. The back-scratching continued as Putin then nominated Medvedev to be the leader of the ruling party, most likely to become chair of parliament. Those hoping that Medvedev would show some bottom and challenge for the presidency on his signature anti-corruption, modernization ticket were left disappointed if not surprised. In fact, Medvedev revealed to the conference that the exact steps of this political foxtrot had in fact been decided between the two leading men long ago.
This is not so much the end of an era as the continuation of the Putin epoch which had defined Medvedev’s presidency in any case. Putin is guaranteed to be elected and not only in 2012 but possibly for the next presidential term as well. This will be in compliance with the Russian constitution – and for new six year terms. The liberal and democratically-oriented segments of Russian society are less than thrilled with the prospect of, by 2024, a 70-something Putin leading Russia into the future. But this is exactly what Boris Nemtsov, a leading opposition politician, foresees. He believes that the ruse worked out between Putin and Medvedev will be catastrophic for Russia, saying that Russia has no chance for modernization, and predicting Putin will eventually go the way of Egypt's Mubarak. Nemtsov sees the conditions in place now to bring people out onto the streets.
Some analysts however challenge Nemtsov’s prediction suggesting that there is little chance of revolution. Instead, in some nightmare vision of an eternal Russia with an eternal Putin, there are those who see Medvedev acting as Putin's foil, popping back into the president's seat when needed allowing Putin to carry on past 2024 and beyond. Other analysts think such predictions are simply mystic-ball gazing.
In Georgia, the major interest concerns how relations will now develop with Russia. A representative of the government MP Zurab Tsiklauri thinks that it is better for Georgia that Putin will be the president. He believes that the end to uncertainty is good and that it is better to know who will govern the country rather than having a straw man in the post without any real power. The MP further thinks that the west will be more organized regarding Russia and that thus Georgia could benefit from the situation. The analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze also thinks that the resolution of the presidency issue will create stability, whereas conflict in the Kremlin could have manifested itself as outward aggression towards enemies, such as Georgia, in the struggle for power. Another analyst, Mamuka Areshidze however challenged this position and supposes probable complications and provocations from Moscow as regards Georgia in any case. In such a scenario however, analyst Soso Tsiskarishvili thinks that this could be useful for the anti-Russian Georgian leadership with elections coming up.
It is clear that Putin's personal and well-known anathema towards the current ruling administration is a major obstacle for getting Russia-Georgia relations on a better footing. That anathema does not seem to subside with age. Yet, things may still change. Putin's team will know that he cannot rest on his laurels – to circumvent Putin fatigue at home he must now set out a renewed vision for Russia for his coming, extended term as president. A lot will depend on what this vision will look like and how it imagines relations with the so-called near abroad, and particularly Georgia.