#17 - JRL 7187
May 16, 2003
WHO IS PUTIN'S RIVAL?
The presidential administration will have to choose the lesser of two evils
Author: Alexei Bogaturov
[from WPS Monitoring Agency, www.wps.ru/e_index.html]
PARADOXICALLY, BOTH OF THE BEST RIGHT-WING CANDIDATES FOR OFFICIAL RIVALS TO PUTIN ARE TOO STRONG TO ACT THE PART OF "CERTAIN LOSERS", AS WOULD BE BEST FOR THE KREMLIN. HENCE, THE LIBERALS MAY NOT BE INVITED TO TAKE ON THE ROLE OF PUTIN'S MAIN "PSEUDO-RIVAL", WHICH COULD GO TO A LEFT-WING CANDIDATE.
Presidential elections cannot remain non-alternative - neither the president nor the presidential administration will permit this, for their own self-respect.
Theoretically, there are more than enough rivals: every party is ready to announce it has its own candidate. The rivals are wrenchingly known: Yavlinsky, Nemtsov, Kirienko, Zyuganov, Zhirinovsky and a couple of people "out of nothing" who will appear at the very last moment. All this has already been and all is known beforehand, "the city of known faces" who have become so boring that even their carriers have started suspecting it. However, many of them will be unable to do anything: in particular, Yavlinsky will be unable to reject the presidential race as well as Zhirinovsky or right-wing leaders.
Things are different with Zyuganov: it is impossible to suspect him of the inability to give up the leadership on the left wing. He is stubborn, ambitious, inert, but intelligent. Hence, he is able to maneuver. However, even the communists are demanding a change of leader. Over the 12 years, so much mud has stuck to his image that even inveterate party members can consider him an expendable candidate. Zyuganov is sullenly keeping silent and thinks that the left wing is already splitting, the moderate wing is separating. Orthodox communists are also strengthening criticism. The ice is melting on two sides. Therefore, either he will lead the changes and will try to direct them or the renewal current will pass Zyuganov by. This is likely to transform into an intelligent and risky game: Gennady Zyuganov will give up his role of presidential contender from the party to a more prospective left wing politician and will retain his role of the party and Duma faction leader. Apparently, they will conclude a "concordat": one reigns while another rules, like Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu. Probably, Zyuganov and Glazyev rehearsed this role at the May 1 rally.
However, the choice depends not on Zyuganov only. Glazyev is too well known to please the Kremlin as the left wing presidential contender. Although toking for a "suitable" rival for Putin, he is to be admittedly not through-pass. The Kremlin needs a person like Glazyev but less promoted. If such a leader starts his campaign now, like Semigin, he will become known by the time of the election but will not become a real threat for Putin. Hence, there will be a left wing rival. However, the request for a right-wing rival is more acute. There are two official right-wing presidential contenders - Kasianov and Khodorkovsky. The former seems to be good but one thing - he is too strong and experienced. Prime minister is a too serious figure, but he may become too strong and will start winning. Moreover, the "indelible" Family likes him more than Putin. Compared to Putin, Kasianov is "one of us" for the Family - no frivolities with sovereignty, no friendship with security services, no love for people from the province. That is why the presidential administration has not hurried with declaring Kasianov Putin's official rival. Then, Khodorkovsky seemed to be an ideal figure: intelligent, bright, successful, at the same time educated and with a good sense of measure. He is an almost ideal tycoon, favorite of educated people and at the same time... absolutely unsuitable for the role of a presidential contender, due to the peculiar mentality of Russians, who are angry and disagreeing with everything but one thing: the people are still willing to have a Russian president. Overall, if Khodorkovsky didn't exist, he sould have been designed by computer. He immediately outpaced Kasianov as the Kremlin's priority. He could be an optimal figure for Putin's sham rival - were it not for the merger of YUKOS and Sibneft. After that, Khodorkovsky immediately went beyond the "harmlessness limit" and became a rather dangerous figure.
Putin's associates felt the same when it became clear that on the eve of an election the new oil mega-corporation will have no rivals in controlling vital money flows. It won't be possible to manage Khodorkovsky, as he will be able to aspire to the role of shaper of Russian politics if he is... so incautious. Paradoxically, both of the best right-wing candidates for official rivals to Putin are too strong to act the part of "certain losers", as would be best for the Kremlin. Hence, the liberals may not be invited to take on the role of Putin's main "pseudo-rival", which could go to a left-wing candidate.
(Translated by Arina Yevtikhova )