The Kremlin’s Farce Enters Act Three

In a move that shocked many western observers by its bluntness, Vladimir Putin announced today his intention to head the United Russia party in upcoming parliamentary elections. Regarding the possibility of his becoming prime minister, Putin winked that “it is still too early to think about it.” He went on: “Two conditions must be met first — United Russia must win the election and a decent, capable and modern person with whom I work as a team should be elected president.” This statement in and of itself is absurd. With Putin at its helm, United Russia is guaranteed parliamentary dominance, and Putin himself will choose his own presidential successor.

Putin’s announcement indicates the attempt at a transition for Putin to the post of prime minister, where he will continue to enjoy the power he has consolidated. And though sudden in its implementation, it should come as no surprise. Putin and his crony government have never intended to share power, or to open the political system to broader participation.

United Civil Front leader Garry Kasparov announced:

“We are witnessing the next public act of the Kremlin’s unfolding play. In accordance with this scenario, all political life will be totally dominated by “United Russia,” a pseudo-political party formation that will take control of all aspects of life in the country, just as it was under the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.”

Putin’s two four-year terms have seen the dismantling of a critical free press and the consolidation of power to the executive. Nearly all institutions outside of the presidency, from NGO citizen groups to political parties, have been delegitimized. Hence, it is ironic that in assuming the role of Prime Minister Putin will likely lose popularity as he becomes associated with the corruption and problems of the government and parliament. As president, he has stage-managed an image of someone “above the corruption,” with few ties to the mess underneath. Up until today he had even refused to join a political party, saying instead that a president should be above politics.

The consolidation of power has dragged Russian politics ever deeper into authoritarianism. As Kasparov continued:

“Today in Russia the results of a major stage of Russia’s history, which started under Yeltsin, were subverted. The pseudo-democratic farce the Kremlin has attempted to perform all these years is now complete. Now a new epoch will start, one in which the executive authority will definitively squeeze the other branches under itself. In essence this is a leap back of 20 years, to the Soviet past.”