10/18/2017, 09.46
RUSSIA
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Putin's campaign towards new elections

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The president has not yet announced his candidacy. He could do it in December. Rumours of an alternative plan, that Putin would be ready to appoint his successor: Aleksej Djumin. Meanwhile new governors arrive and there may also be new ministers.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – Speculation and rumours are mounting in the press and Russian public opinion around Presidents Vladimir Putin's future choices, in particular, regarding the next presidential campaign, in view of the elections scheduled for March 18, 2018 (the symbolic date of the Crimean annexation). Some regional choices and appointments in the last few weeks have predicted a series of changes in a "vertical" system of twenty years, which has lately shown symptoms of fatigue.

According to sources at the top of the presidential party "Russia United" reported by the Medusa agency, Putin will officially submit his candidacy to his fourth Presidential term in December, during the annual message to the Federal Assembly. This time the president should be presented as independent and not on behalf of the party, to mark his superiority over the parties and his figure of "Father of Homeland."

The Presidential Administration is preparing a network of Telegram channels to broadcast across all 89 regions of Russia to address younger generations in particular; the channels will be managed by local journalists and press collaborators, selected for their consistency with the candidate and the effectiveness of communication on the territory.  The channels will be dedicated to the spread of the Putin program, and will remain open through next year.

The most intense and overwhelming move in recent weeks has been the appointment of 10 new regional governors. This is the instrument that has mainly characterized Putin's domestic policy since the early years: instead of the wide autonomy granted by Yeltsin, which had created numerous contradictions in the 1990s and had fuelled ambitions of often unpredictable characters, since 2000 the “vertical" power scheme has been imposed, removing the elective character of the governors. Being appointed directly by the president, the leaders of the regions are faithful performers of his programs; the recent changes all go in the way of a clinging to the ruling class, which thus appears to be one of the main goals of the new campaign. On the one hand, this is a natural phenomenon after two decades of government, on the other hand, it is the desire to fine tune relations with the new younger candidates, whose devotion to Putin's power is increasingly under question. The new generations show remarkable intolerance towards situations of crystallized power, often compromised by corruption and conflicts of interest, and even ideologically, do not seem to support the ideological pathos of the great-Russian nationalism of these years. National pride and the desire to return to the role of world superpower is, in fact, largely a result of nostalgia for the Soviet Union, of which the youngest have no memory or bond.

The "new" choices among well-liked people

The new appointments surprised the observers and the citizens themselves, such as Vladimir Vassiliev in Dagestan or Aleksandr Burkov in the Omsk region of Siberia; they are well-known and well-liked characters according to public opinion, but so far removed from the ambitions of power and the usual political games. The new governors seem to respond to the demands of honesty and transparency invoked in so many demonstrations in the past year; with the beginning of the cold season, inevitably such protests will almost be reduced to zero for the difficulty of going out onto the streets, and by Spring this move could represent a complete "break" from a soiled past.

Various changes at central level are also expected in the coming months, such as resigning and replacing ministers, in order to free up the burdens of the Moscow administration. These spin-offs should then be accompanied by various reforms, especially in the economic field, to cope with the galloping systematic crisis in which Russia has been plummeting for a couple of years. The problems are partly due to the conflict situations in which Russia is involved in Syria and Ukraine, with the astronomical consequential military costs and the sanctions imposed by the West; in part they also depend on the structural conditions of the Russian economy, which is based on the export of raw materials and energy resources, which is now very much in trouble compared to the previous decade.

When asked by journalists if he did not think it was time to announce his candidacy, Putin said at the beginning of September that "as soon as an announcement is made, everyone stops working." In fact, this response has raised further doubts and assumptions: officials would hardly stop working under Putin, but could be let go if the candidate were another. Many speak of an alternative plan, and that Putin would be ready to point to his heir: it would be Aleksej Djumin, the 45-year-old governor of Tula, a strong man already head of the security services of the president, and in 2014 commander of the Special Forces which ensured the reunification of the Crimea with Russia. Djumin also ran the evacuation of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to Russia, and could now appear as the new leader able to cross the border between Russia and its future as well.

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