Putin Shuffles the Deckchairs

For some reason western media outlets are acting as though today’s announced cabinet reorganization by Vladimir Putin is in some way significant. It is nothing more than a ritual. Nor does it have much to do with the December 2nd parliamentary elections, which are little more than a farce scripted long ago. Putin will use this ostensibly open phase to sound out his cronies and prolong the tension that is building toward the crisis of the March 08 presidential election, the one that really matters.

Medvedev  and Ivanov will be shopped around a bit, though we doubt either of them are destined to sit in Putin’s Tzarist throne. Perhaps a few insufficiently loyal members will be replaced, as has been the trend when any crisis nears.

By the way, the possibility of a third time for Putin has again reared its head. He will speak at the United Russia party congress on October 2 and the tone of that address will tell the story. The UR had announced the date of the event before Putin signed the decree formally authorizing the December 2nd elections. Campaigns can start one month after the decree is published, but it wasn’t released until September 5. This means other parties cannot being until October 5th, ceding the sovereign United Russia a head-start they surely don’t need. Of course they cannot hold an open primary to select their presidential candidate. It must either be Putin or a named successor or their image as the “official party of power” will be marred.

As one columnist recently put it, Russia does have a two-party system. There’s the party of oil and the party of gas…