2012 Presidential Race


Is alive.
Wackbag Staff
New York Times

I don't see how he can not win again.

Putin Will Seek Russian Presidency in 2012

Published: September 24, 2011

MOSCOW — Vladimir V. Putin, who for more than a decade has labored to consolidate authority in Russia under his control, will run for president next year, replacing his protégé, Dmitri A. Medvedev, and possibly extending his rule until 2024.

Mr. Medvedev made the announcement on Saturday, at the convention of United Russia, the country’s dominant political party. His voice cracking with emotion, he said that the decision had been “deeply thought out,” and suggested that there had been discussions about Mr. Putin’s eventual return to the presidency for years.

Mr. Putin then took the stage and proposed that Mr. Medvedev could now succeed him as prime minister. Before the announcement, Mr. Putin had hinted that such a change might be coming, saying that Mr. Medvedev would lead United Russia’s list of candidates going to parliamentary elections in December.

Mr. Putin remained Russia’s pre-eminent political figure even after he tapped Mr. Medvedev for the presidency at the end of his own second term four years ago. Analysts have long speculated that Mr. Medvedev would act as a placeholder for Mr. Putin, who can now legally return to the presidency for a third term after spending four years as prime minister.

The announcement Saturday was met with roaring applause by United Russia members, and ended months of speculation over which of the two leaders in the so-called ruling tandem would run in, and most certainly win, the presidential election in March.

It was at the same event four years ago that Mr. Putin told his supporters that he would not run for a third consecutive term as president, something that would have required him to change the Constitution. To the disappointment of many in United Russia, he announced that he would instead select “a respectable, competent, effective and modern person with whom it would be possible to work in tandem.” Three months later did he identify that person — his young protégé, Dmitri A. Medvedev.

It was not clear then whether Mr. Medvedev was meant to serve as a placeholder until this year, or whether some transfer of power would take place.

Intrigue over this question built over the next four years, especially when Mr. Medvedev — his weak political power balanced by great constitutional authority — made it plain that he wanted to remain in office. Uncertainty has sent Moscow’s bureaucracy into a defensive crouch, thrusting aside discussion of foreign and domestic issues.

“For an entire year, political society has not talked about anything except rumors,” Gleb O. Pavlovsky, a political consultant and longtime Kremlin adviser, said earlier this month.

There is little evidence that the outcome will portend dramatic policy changes. Mr. Medvedev has called for checks on state power, and his rhetoric won him the backing of many in progressive circles, but he did not push through substantial political or judicial reforms during his presidency. Mr. Putin, meanwhile, has signaled that he may restyle himself as a reformer, wrapping himself in the mantle of the tsarist prime minister Pyotr Stolypin.

If and when he assumes the presidency after next year’s elections, Mr. Putin will face painful and unpopular decisions as oil production levels off. Mr. Putin’s United Russia party has been gradually losing popularity, dropping 9 points since January to its lowest point since Mr. Medvedev became president, according to the Public Opinion Foundation. And back-to-back elections in December or March, neither of which offers an alternative to the current government, will strain the state’s coffers and voters’ patience.

In 1999 and 2007, the identity of the next president was not announced until after the December parliamentary elections, allowing decision-makers to take into account the degree of public support for the system. This spring, Mr. Putin said he would delay the announcement for as long as possible to avoid a lame-duck period in which “half of the administration and more than half of the government will stop working in the expectation of change.”

Over recent months, Mr. Putin, who turns 59 in October, has left little question that he intends to remain the dominant partner, making televised appearances on a Harley-Davidson, deep-sea-diving and engaging in soulful dialogue with ordinary people. As Mr. Putin made a series of campaign-style appearances, Mr. Medvedev has been forced to repeatedly explain that the decision is not in his hands, as the columnist Aleksandr Minkin wrote last week in Moskovsky Komsomolets.

“The question causes him unconcealed irritation — he ducks it, assures us that he will answer soon, asks for the ‘suspense to be continued’ (but why?)” Mr. Minkin wrote. “But he has been asked in the wrong way — either the place is unsuitable, or something else again. What kind of president is this man, who once said that his every word was ‘cast in granite?’ ”

After Mr. Medvedev delivered a major speech in Yaroslavl this month, analyst Lilia Shevtsova, of the Moscow Carnegie Center, titled her blog post on the subject “The Last Act of the Play.”

“How difficult it has become for Medvedev to fill the time,” she wrote. “It was not long ago that he practically reveled in his function. He clearly believed in its seriousness. But now the moment has come, when it became clear — he has to get his things together.”