Putin or Medvedev: Who Will Lead?

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After a regal ceremony, Dmitri Medvedev has become the third president of the Russian Federation. While he now holds the most powerful office in the county, much of the public and many analysts are skeptical that he will become the leading force in Russian politics. Most Russians believe that Vladimir Putin, who was approved as prime minister on Thursday, will continue to run the show from behind the scenes. In the Yezhednevny Zhurnal online newspaper, Anton Orekh ponders this question, wondering at what will happen in the coming “astonishing time.”

May 8, 2008
Anton Orekh
Yezhednevny Zhurnal

An astonishing time awaits us. The time of Medvedev’s rule will without a doubt be astonishing. Astonishing not because the astonishment will be pleasant, although, who knows, what if! It’s just that something simple and ordinary cannot come out of this whole contrived plan.

The grandiose inauguration against the background of the thievishly modest hand-over of presidential credentials, that is to say, the effective takeover of the full [presidential] powers. Will his rule henceforth be the same: a bright outer shell and the absence of any inside filling? If Medvedev is going to rule on his own –it will be astonishing. Because now, no one is expecting it.

They are waiting for regency. Something like it existed in our history, but it was long ago, and no one now living caught it. If Medvedev rules in name only, cutting ribbons, sending facsimile telegrams on the anniversaries of his favorite actors and accepting the credentials of ambassadors – it would be logical, but unfamiliar and incomprehensible in a country where the tsar must be the Head. And Russia’s president is indeed her tsar.

If the tendency of the presidential post gradually becoming formality continues, wherein all the actual powers are in practice transferred to the prime minister – it will violate all established traditions. But still, how perfectly did the renowned Putin political analyst put it: as in, who said that the president is the head of the Executive Branch? This is a misconception! The prime minister was always the head of the Executive Branch! And if you thought this wasn’t the case, then it was merely a temporary and necessary deviation and error.

Which means, we are already being prepared to regard the prime minister as the state’s chief executive. And as for his boss, the president… I don’t even know what [to call him].

But imagine that Medvedev, having received the “Card” and having sworn on the Constitution, suddenly decides that he’s the head and really does become the head? Then it will be quite an astonishing rule, with the dethronement of the all-people’s idol-prime minister.

But imagine how delightful it will be, if both immediately start administrating, which is also possible up to a point. Although, this would not be as much astonishing as fraught with consequences. Already, unrest has started among the civil servants, since they can’t grasp who to resolve matters with, who to brown nose, who to follow. And when the two-voiced cacophony sounds from the Kremlin! The bureaucrats will finally go haywire, and serve two masters, like Truffaldino.

But the main danger for the new epoch doesn’t even lie in all this. Up until now, after all, the times have not been less astonishing. At no time before did such a golden rain pour down upon our country. Nearly eight years of a continuous stream of oil and oil dollars. Like any freebie, the hydrocarbon one will also cease sooner or later (likely sooner!). But holding on to it is our whole economy, and all of our prosperity – which is like winning after putting [all your money] on “zero” out of desperation. But it isn’t possible to keep winning on “zero” forever.

Medvedev will find it necessary to struggle with falling revenues from the sale of resources –against a background of out-of-control inflation. And it has already gone out-of-control. 18% per year is what we’re heading toward– such a hole can’t be filled with promises and cheerful segments on the news. And who will blame who? Will the president dismiss the premier, or will the premier say the president has failed?

And how long will this astonishing time extend? One term, two terms? Or maybe, until the first scandal with a planned switch-up?

Predictions, as is known, are a foolish and unrewarding thing. Furthermore, the way you make a prediction is precisely how it probably won’t happen. But, on the other hand, for all the cartwheels of Putin’s rule, his appointment of Medvedev as successor was one of the most evident and oldest of the discussed versions [of events]. And that means that there are still some things in this life we can predict.

translated by theotherrussia.org