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#10 - JRL 7239
Vremya MN
June 25, 2003
What can we expect from Putin's second term in office?
Author: Andrei Lipsky
[from WPS Monitoring Agency, www.wps.ru/e_index.html]


The parliamentary and the presidential elections are approaching. The number of political speculations and scandals involving various VIPs is on the rise.

The election campaign has already included a motion of no confidence in the government by Yabloko and the Communists, Gryzlov's crackdown on corrupt police, amendments to the law on the media, and an eventual cleansing of television from potential disturbers of the peace, and even the first electoral manifesto, which the adventurers from the URF have managed to launch on the election market before the parliament starts its summer recess.

How can the publicity festival which the president arranged for journalists and other concerned persons last Friday be viewed in this context?

It could be regarded as a routine ritual, one of the supporting structures of "controllable democracy."

It could be regarded as a tool used to "fine-tune" the awkward and bizarre state political machinery: until all components get their instructions, the architect himself won't recognize them. At the news conference, everything said must be heard - so please get the proper tuning!

The president's press conference could be regarded as a "demonstrative appearance" before his Western counterparts. Presumably, we know and understand everything; life is still hard, but we are in control of everything, so you're welcome.

In fact, what the president displayed to the world last Friday was nothing other than his electoral manifesto, even though he was meticulously concealing this, or perhaps couldn't even imagine it.

What could be the reason for this presumptuous conclusion? Putin has repeatedly declared to the doubtful that he hasn't even thought about the upcoming elections, that he hasn't yet decided whether he will run for re-election.

Everything is simple enough. Putin is not an improviser; neither is he among those who are is acting according to the principle "let's get into a fight and we'll see what's next." Stability and predictability for him are more significant than a reformer's zeal and surprises for enemies. He neither likes, nor can afford the tricks. Ideologically, he is not overburdened: he won't be wasting time and power for the struggle against the "red and brown," the fruitless quest of the "national idea."

Moreover, he is a president of the ratings. The popularity ratings have generated him, and they can bring him down. He is backed by nothing else - only a knot of contradictory interests of his current followers, the majority of them inherited from previous supervisors. No matter we like it or not, Putin's popularity rating is based on a depressive tiredness of Russian society from the absurd reforms and the endless social-political stress, acquired during the period of "tempest and pressure."

It turns out that the political-psychological constitution of the present-day Russian president is yet responding to the basic expectations of an average Russian philistine: cannot assist properly, leave us in peace, don't disturb our lifestyles and, most importantly, don't do sharp moves." If so, the president's latest wide-scale conversation with society on the eve of the electoral duplet undoubtedly has all signs of an electoral speech, since "the main" was discussed, and Putin dislikes and cannot make sharp changes in his positions.

Many experts assume that Putin's excessive caution on the conduction of the required reforms will evaporate after he is elected for the second term in office. Allegedly, he has nothing special to lose; it is possible to neglect his popularity rating acquired for "stability" and modernize the country through sharper moves - otherwise, he can recede into the history as the president of lost opportunities.

Judging by Putin's manifest, no breakthrough, no second term in office will occur - the continuation of the first presidency will follow.

Firstly, so serious transformations are expected in the political system. As before, we'll be living in the presidential (rather than the presidential-parliamentary) republic.

The government will be responsible for its responsibility area, but won't actually become "responsible." The successes will be contributive for the president's reputation (as the chief responsible figure), and the government (as an incapable hired manager) will in the suitable instance be billed for the failures. Respectively, this manager can be replaced, without any particular danger of a political crisis.

If the pro-presidential majority comes evident after the Duma elections, a certain quasi-party government could be imitated. If this doesn't occur, a necessary person will be appointed prime minister, and the practiced techniques will help passing him through the Duma.

The role of parties, as well as the role of the parliament, where views and interests of parties must collide and be articulated, will remain secondary.

This is why the president firmly abandoned the idea of his even hypothetical affiliation with any party. Indeed, why is it needed in a system, the core of which admits no affiliation with any party, which is being readjusted to suit specific tasks furtively, through the combinations with apparatus?

What's more, among the people and at the parliament political parties are more likely enjoying irritation, rather than sympathy. Why should a "president of rating" go against the stream which is favorable for him so far?

Let's say more: there will be no perturbations, affecting the existing Constitution, which Putin is viewing as a pillar of "stability," which is so dear to his heart. We are not expecting the change of the president's term in office or a large-scale redistribution of the map of the Russian regions.

We won't face a breakthrough in the economy. However, Putin once deviated from the inertia scenario when he again confirmed the idea of "doubling the GDP." But the methods which it is planned to apply arouse suspicions that in this case we are dealing with a psychological weapon for internal and external use: supposedly, we are not only mending holes, but are setting ambitious targets, which means we are raising on our feet, we have the future, etc. Reduction of the tax burden, an administrative reform, reducing the state's pressure on the large-scale business and other similar steps, which are reduced to the corrections of the existing bureaucratic system implemented from the top, are the main instruments.

Most importantly is to have all of this under control, so that everybody could be fairly satisfied: the officials, the large-scale business, the governors and everybody else. If any dissatisfied persons come to light, required is a president-arbiter, not belonging to any party but knowing everything and capable of settling any problem.

This scheme of president's conduct may actually be suitable for the Russian people, who are tired of experiments, but this scheme is only preserving what we have now. The poverty of the nation he is heading is the only factor our president is ashamed of.

To put it simply, stabilization is absence of changes and relying on it for a long time is dangerous.

However, the presidential elections are far ahead and the electoral manifest can yet be corrected. Could it be that it hasn't yet been declared?

(Translated by Andrei Ryabochkin)

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