Electing the Tsar

Former Russian President turned current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is going before the voters of Russia this coming week, and is expected to win a third term as the President of the Russian Federation.  Rigged elections last year brought tens of thousands of middle class Russians to city streets in hitherto unseen demonstration of popular discontent with the endemic corruption that characterizes Russian politics.  Putin, despite these protests, is widely expected to win a third term.  Despite the fact that there is a sizeable segment of Russian society that is dissatisfied with the former KGB officer, his overall competent economic stewardship and suppression of viable political alternatives has left the country with him as the sole credible contender for Russia’s most powerful position.

He’s already served two terms, beginning on New Year’s Eve in 1999, when Boris Yeltsin unexpectedly stepped down after allegedly sealing an amnesty deal with Putin, who agreed to offer immunity to the erratic President for breathtaking corruption in the 1990s.  Putin quickly consolidated power, and handed the Kremlin over to Dmitri Medvedev, who in turn ceded his post to his old boss.  Should Putin recapture his old job this coming week, as is widely expected, he will serve for a combined 18 years.  On top of that, he’s also articulated the possibility of running for President again in 2018, which would bring his total tenure to 24 years, longer than any other Russian/Soviet leader since Josef Stalin.

So, while it’s still probably early to preordain a new Putin dynasty, it’s pretty clear that Putin, for better or worse, is going to be a durable fixture in Russian politics for the foreseeable future.  Put simply, there’s no other credible contender for the job.  But, those things have a tendency of changing, and when they do so, they change quickly.

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