Posts Tagged ‘president


Russia: Vladimir Putin launches his presidential campaign

In what could be seen as the start of a presidential campaign, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin reflected Friday on decisions he made that he said could have cost him his political career – and declared that the risk was always justified.

He specifically referred to his response to the 1999 rebel attacks on Dagestan led by the notorious Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev.

Militants headed by Basayev and Saudi-born Ibn Al-Khattab attacked Dagestan in August-September 1999. Hundreds of people were killed in the subsequent fighting, a precursor to the second Chechen war.

“Unless I took resolute and tough action, the country would have fallen apart,” he said during a working visit to one of Russia’s biggest steel makers, the Magnitogorsk Steel Plant.

“I had to make a decision. I thought: That’s it, my career is over.”

Putin said he acted in accordance with the country’s national interests, with no consideration of political expediency.

Asked what he considered his most significant achievement in the past decade, Putin said a good deal had been done for the country but Russia had still a long way to go, specifically reduce poverty and ensure economic growth.

“New tools, new people and new ideas are needed, deep modernization and innovation are needed to accelerate economic and social growth and strengthen the political foundations of our society,” Putin said.

Asked what quality was most important in a president, Putin said, “integrity – integrity in everything,” adding that a person who “can’t keep his word must not even be allowed to head any team, let alone the country.”

The prime minister also stressed the importance of professionalism and diplomacy.

Putin’s comments come as analysts and ordinary Russians speculate who will run in next year’s presidential poll.

President Dmitry Medvedev and Putin have made clear that one of them – and only one of them – will run in the presidential elections on March 11, 2012, but it is anyone’s guess as to which one.


Many questions about Putin’s proposal for “unified civil front”

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has observers scratching their heads over his dramatic appeal to build a “unified civil front” of political parties and social groups to confront an unspecified national dilemma.

The idea sounds baffling since Russia, despite its various issues, does not appear to face a looming crisis that would justify putting aside political differences for the common good. Some experts scoff that the unmentioned emergency is Mr. Putin’s own poll numbers.

Putin, who is widely suspected to be eyeing a return to the presidency, saw his numbers plunge in recent polls and rating for the party he leads, United Russia, also dropped. RELATED: Putin’s marquee moments.

But a few critics warn darkly that Putin may be seeking to reshape Russian political culture into one of forced social unity similar to the former Soviet system, in which all of civil society – including media, trade unions, the church, youth, women’s groups, even sports clubs – were held in captive orbits around the all-powerful ruling party.

“I propose the creation of something that in practical politics is called a unified civil front, an organization to unify the efforts of various political forces ahead of major events of political character,” Putin told a conference of United Russia in the central Russian city of Volgograd last Friday.

‘Fresh ideas, fresh proposals’

The front should recruit into its ranks all organizations and people “who are united by the idea to strengthen our country and by the wish to search for the most optimal ways of solving current problems,” he added. Putin spent much of the long weekend (Monday was Victory Day, a major holiday in Russia) meeting with business and social leaders to test the idea, which would include opening up as much as a third of United Russia’s candidate lists to nonparty members affiliated with the new front.

“United Russia needs an inflow of fresh ideas, fresh proposals, and fresh faces,” he told journalists. Sign up for our daily World Editor’s Picks newsletter. Our best stories, in your inbox. United Russia, the state-backed political behemoth whose membership is packed with officials, has given Putin near undisputed control over most legislatures in Russia for nearly a decade, including a two-thirds majority in the Duma.

But lately its public approval rating has slumped dramatically. The party, which won 67 percent in 2007 Duma elections, was supported by just 43 percent of Russians, according to an April survey by the independent Public Opinion Fund (FOM).

“Putin [who leads United Russia] aims to secure his own position in case of a poor showing by the party in the coming Duma elections,” says Nikolai Petrov, an expert with the Carnegie Center in Moscow. “The idea is to add some fresh faces, so that the candidate list doesn’t just consist of the same old dull bureaucrats and corrupt officials. It’s just an electoral scheme.”


Why will Vladimir Putin win once more in 2012

Vladimir Putin has given Russia’s farmers, blue-collar workers, soldiers, parents and retirees good reasons to want him back in the Kremlin… Many reasons that allow Russians to believe there not yet done with Vladimir Putin.

In a four-hour nationally televised appearance, the prime minister said not a word last week about his plans for next year’s presidential election. The topic has been a subject of fervent debate in recent weeks as President Dmitry Medvedev has shown a desire to stay on for another term.

But by portraying himself as the defender of a strong Russia and making a string of campaign like promises to improve the lives of ordinary people, Mr. Putin sent an unmistakable signal that he intends to reclaim the presidency.

“The nation needs decades of stable and calm development without any sharp movements and ill-conceived experiments” based on liberal policy, Mr. Putin, 58, said during his annual address before parliament.

Mr. Putin, Russia’s president from 2000 to 2008, was barred by the constitution from serving a third consecutive term and groomed Mr. Medvedev to succeed him. Both men have said they will decide together which one of them will run in March 2012, but the decision is understood to be Mr. Putin’s.

The uncertainty seems to suit both of them. The debate over which one will run serves to stimulate interest in the election by creating a pretense of political competition.

The uncertainty, which leaves open the possibility that Mr. Medvedev will remain in the Kremlin, also helps him carry out the mission that Mr. Putin set for him and encourages those in the West who have worked to improve relations with Russia.

Mr. Putin chose the tech-savvy Mr. Medvedev, 13 years his junior, to lead the drive to modernize the Russian economy, still based largely on exports of oil and gas, and tackle spiraling corruption. Mr. Medvedev also presents a friendlier face to the West, as Russia seeks to attract much-needed foreign investment.

Mr. Medvedev’s liberal pronouncements have helped to bring back on board the business community and educated urban elite, who had become disillusioned with Mr. Putin as he established greater state control over the economy and politics.


Will Luzhkov’s sack really benefit to Medvedev

The sack of Yuri Luzhkov, Moscow mayor and close friend of Vladimir Putin, can be seen as a power show from Dmitry Medvedev. Ousting one of the founders of Putin’s United Russia party has even been compared to Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s arrest. Therefore, journalists want to believe that Medvedev’s move is the first step of a succession war with Putin… not that simple…

First of all, Vladimir Putin remained strangely neutral during the ousting process. If Medvedev had really launched a war, we all know Putin would not have reacted that way… It’s not facts but common sense!

Moscow’s portly mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, has been one of the most visible figures in Russian politics for 18 years. But his sacking by President Dmitry Medvedev caps a year in which a number of other long-lived local heavyweights have bitten the proverbial dust, consolidating the Kremlin’s authority as well as Mr Medvedev’s personal power.

Mr Luzhkov’s power was that of a feudal baron – allowed to rule as he saw fit as long as he delivered comfortable majorities for the ruling United Russia party in elections and maintained stability in the capital, say analysts.

But Mr Medvedev has been quietly replacing a number of politically independent strongmen in sensitive local posts. They include Mintimer Shaimiev, president of the autonomous region of Tatarstan, who stood down in March after 19 years in the job, and Murtaz Rakhimov, president of Bashkortostan, who left in July, having been in the post since 1993.

According to Masha Lipman, analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center, the think-tank, Mr Luzhkov’s ouster is part of a pattern in which the Kremlin replaces figures who have a strong local basis of support with appointees who owe their jobs to Moscow.

“It is quite legitimate to regard [Mr Luzhkov’s ouster] as an element of a single policy,” she said.

Many political analysts believe the post of mayor may now be split into two jobs – mayor and chairman of government – which would weaken the position and ensure that the Kremlin will never again have a figure with Mr Luzhkov’s stature to contend with.

Konstantin Remchukov, chief editor of Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the respected Moscow daily, said that there were important nuances to Mr Luzhkov’s sacking that show Mr Medvedev gaining authority in his job.

Both Mr Shaimiev and Mr Rakhimov formally stood down voluntarily. Mr Rakhimov was even given a high state award for his services, thought to be a sign that Mr Medvedev was unable to force him out of power without a compromise.

The ouster of Mr Luzhkov marks the first time Mr Medvedev has used his constitutional power to fire a powerful local leader and demonstrates his “political evolution”, according to Mr Remchukov. “To be taken seriously in our hierarchical society, you need to demolish someone powerful,” he said.

He drew a parallel with the arrest of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, oil tycoon, in 2003, which confirmed Mr Medvedev’s mentor, former president, now prime minister, Vladimir Putin, as the all-powerful leader of Russia. Mr Medvedev’s move is seen as exceedingly risky by some observers. Mr Luzhkov was no outsider, he was one of the founders of the United Russia party, currently headed by Mr Putin. His rough handling by Mr Medvedev could create tensions within the party and pitch Moscow politics into turmoil with only a year to go before 2011 parliamentary elections.

But Ms Lipman contends that Mr Medvedev had little choice but to fire Mr Luzhkov, given the mayor’s defiance and his personal criticism of the president that ignited the conflict earlier this month. “Had Medvedev failed it would have made him look exceedingly weak,” she said.

The Luzhkov crisis, which began on September 10 with the first broadside against the mayor in a Kremlin-directed TV campaign also showed Mr Medvedev making decisions seemingly independently of Mr Putin. Mr Medvedev has always been seen as the junior partner in the ruling “tandem” and it is thought that all decisions on major issues are agreed between the two.

Natalia Timakova, Mr Medvedev’s spokeswoman, confirmed to reporters that Mr Medvedev had informed Mr Putin of the decision in advance.“Of course, Luzhkov was fired by a joint decision of the tandem . . . Dmitry Anatolyevich [Mr Medvedev] . . . would never decide appointments, even appointments which are within the president’s area of competence, on his own,” said Alexei Venediktov, editor in chief of the opposition-friendly radio station Ekho Moskvy.

Mr Putin stayed overtly neutral throughout the campaign against Mr Luzhkov, making no public attempt to interfere on either side, although officials close to Mr Putin briefed reporters that Mr Luzhkov should resign, just as officials close to Medvedev did.

“Putin was watching from the sidelines to see how Medvedev performed,” said Mr Remchukov.

But the next stage of the game will show whether Mr Medvedev has the power to independently name Mr Luzhkov’s successor, or whether the successor will be a Putin appointee. “Medvedev has shown that he has the power to fire but he has not yet shown if he has the power to appoint someone without agreeing it with Putin,” said Mr Remchukov.

Olga Kryshtanovskaya, a Moscow State University sociologist, said the succession question in Moscow is a prelude to the much more important presidential succession to be decided in 2012, which is whether Mr Putin returns to the presidency or Mr Medvedev has a second term.


Good cop/Bad cop: the new Russian order

medvedev_putinPeople either describe the relationship between Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the President Dmitry Medvedev as purely hierarchical, or on the other hand as a potential struggle for power.

I believe the trend of their relations is somewhere between, perpetually swinging between loyalty and ambition. Not to forget Russia’s vital interests which are sacred for both Putin and Medvedev.

I sometime have the feeling that no one in Western countries take in consideration the fact that they are both true patriots (not to say nationalists!!!).

Im being voluntarily provocative in my posts title. Putin/Medvedevs relation can not be reduced to this Hollywood type duet.

Of course, Vladimir Putins popularity rates abroad have been seriously harmed by the wars in Chechnya and in Georgia, as well as by his steady and aggressive desire to bring Russia back to the front of the international scene.

On the contrary, Dmitry Medvedev is well known in Western chancelleries to be a moderate and somehow liberal man, with whom they believe, it will be easier to work with.

But what are we starting to experience? When it comes to Russia’s strategic interests and greatness, there are no any differences between the two men.

Whenever dealing with a matter touching the very heart of power, the two get perfectly along.

On another hand, we have also witnessed these past weeks a number of hints showing that Medvedev does not intend, if he has ever, to remain any longer in Putin’s shadow.

Few weeks ago, while Putin was at the World Economic Forum in Davos struggling against the US financial imperialism (for once, I think he gave this day a very iinspiring speech), Medvedev met the director of Novaya Gazeta.

It might seem a insignificant gesture, but people shall know that in todays Russia, Novaya Gazeta is the most (if not the only) critical newspaper against Russian authorities. 

Medvedev also ousted four governors since the beginning of the year, who had been appointed by… Putin. It might just be a coincidence, but these are signs in Russia of a more flexible and balanced relationship.

Will it last? Will it succeed? Only future can tell, but it is ignorance to believe that Russia is a monolithic country, fully devoted to Putin.