Everything has changed. Who can come after Putin
Presidential elections in Russia have little to do with the actual electoral process. Everyone knows in advance who will be the winner of the race. But still there is one important nuance.
In 2018, at the next re-election of Putin, a sparring partner was selected for him. The main rival of the permanent Russian president was then the communist Pavel Grudinin. Three years have passed – but even now the Kremlin probably cannot forgive him for his result.
Presidential elections in Russia have little to do with the actual electoral process. Everyone knows in advance who will be the winner of the race. The only intrigue is usually the turnout. The higher it is, the higher is the public legitimacy of Putin’s next term. But, besides this, there is one more important nuance, – writes Pavel Kazarin for Crimea. Reality.
Each re-election of a former KGB colonel turns into a referendum. Putin does not defeat abstract competitors – he must defeat alternative scenarios for the country’s development. This victory is symbolic, but significant, because the outcome of the elections should cement the permanent head of state.
In 2000, Russians were asked to vote against regional separatism. In 2004 – against poverty. In 2012, against the backdrop of protest rallies on Bolotnaya Square, Russians were asked to vote against those whom the authorities declared the “ fifth column”. And in 2018, there were two such alternatives at once.
That year, the Kremlin allowed two iconic candidates to run for the presidency. Each of which had to personify those possible alternatives to which the Russian voter had to say a decisive “ no”.
One of the applicants was Ksenia Sobchak. The daughter of a St. Petersburg functionary – one of the symbols of the post-perestroika decade – was appointed to the role of a symbol of everything ” pre-Putin” and “no-Putin”. Her entire public agenda was supposed to personify what would have happened to the country if Russia had not had Vladimir Vladimirovich. They say, to reconsider the status of Crimea, to weaken the state vertical, to introduce social Darwinism.
Losing Sobchak was supposed to cement Putin’s victory. The Russian nineties in her face were to lose to Putin’s twenty years of rule. Sobchak scored a scanty one and a half percent – and fulfilled her task. But she was not the only one whom the Russian presidential administration allowed to vote that year.
The second newcomer to that election race was the communist Pavel Grudinin. State farm director, successful entrepreneur. A kind of personification of the ” red director”, a strong business executive and soil worker. He ideally suited the role of the conventional Russian “ Alexander Lukashenko” – not only by the similarity of biographies, but also by the general political type and rhetoric.
Grudinin’s loss was supposed to be a defeat for the Russian myth of a “strong business executive” who managed to ” keep the people’s property” in state hands and did not give the economy over to the oligarchs. But suddenly something happened that the Kremlin had not planned. Grudinin’s rating began to grow. Putin’s electorate began to spill over to the Communist candidate.
Grudinin was not a Westerner, did not criticize spiritual bonds and did not offer to return Crimea to Ukraine. Instead, he proposed nationalizing strategic enterprises and cutting off capital outflows. But most importantly, he promised to increase taxes for the rich, reduce tariffs for the poor, and promised to protect the inhabitants from the tyranny of the elites.
The Kremlin was probably scared. The fake sparring partner, whose job it was to win triumphantly, suddenly became a problem. They began to destroy Grudinin on all Russian TV channels. But despite this, he still managed to finish second – with a result of almost 12%.
It should be understood that there is a serious anti-elite demand in Russian society. Twenty years ago, it was he who helped Putin to lead the country. During his first term in office, the Russian president defiantly threatened oligarchs, defended pensioners, and fired officials on the air. But now everything has changed. The system built by Putin works not so much in the interests of the average man as in the interests of all the same elites. An ordinary citizen cannot but feel this, and therefore Pavel Grudinin managed to collect votes in 2018. Because he fell into the role of a defender of the ” bottom” from the “top”.
Three years have passed since then, but apparently the Kremlin still cannot forgive Grudinin for its own fear. Two months before the elections to the State Duma, he was removed from the federal list of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. He took second place there – after Zyuganov and before the cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya. He is filmed on a formal pretext, although the real reason lies in the same trauma of 2018. When his nomination made official Moscow pretty nervous.
Three conclusions can be drawn from this whole situation.
First . The talk of Russian propagandists that Putin has no competitors is worthless. There are competitors – and if Russia lives to see free elections, I think they may well win.
Second . Russia is pregnant with change. People are tired of bureaucratic lawlessness and they have a demand for justice. Anyone who promises them to rein in the elite, in theory, has a chance to collect votes.
The third. Whoever defeats Putin is unlikely to come from the liberal camp. There is no point in waiting for Russia to leave the occupied territories. Conversations about spiritual bonds and “one people” will not go anywhere. The imperial virus is too strong and will not give way to anyone without a fight. Therefore, the hopes of many of our fellow citizens that Putin’s departure will by itself solve the problems of our country have nothing to do with reality.
Putin is not forever. Only this does not change anything for Ukraine.