If not Putin, who? Presidential elections in Russia are short of credible candidates.
Ahead presidential elections in Russia, Putin's candidacy - and victory - seems to be granted. But the Kremlin is struggling to keep the semblance of regular competition. Amidst Putin jokes.
- Tuesday, 24 October 2017
Who were expecting the big announcement during President’s speech delivered at Valdai Club was disappointed. The long-awaited statement by Putin on his candidacy for the presidential elections towards the fourth term didn’t arrive.
Nor was the clue given by the moderator of the conference - the political commentator Vladimir Lukyanov – enough to make Putin deliver the big news.
The president, in response, used a typical Berlusconi’s weapon: a joke.
"An oligarch is bankrupt and tells his wife that they will have to sell their Mercedes and buy a Lada, and they will have to move from the luxurious apartment in the exclusive neighborhood to a little flat in the outskirts. "Will you still love me?" He asks his wife. "Of course, I will love you and will miss you so much", she replies.
"I do not think you'll miss me so much", Putin added grimly.
A country where everything is possible
What Putin seemed to suggested (that he’s not going to candidate) is rather unlikely to happen. His response shows a sneaky confidence against the (non-existent) opponents running for the presidential.
A second question by Lukyanov has offered the right for another joke. "Can a woman become president of Russia?" the commentator asked. Putin smiled and replied: "In our country everything is possible."
The woman both of them were thinking of is Ksenia Sobchak, daughter of a close ally of Putin, who a few days earlier had announced her intention to run for the presidency.
Sobchak is a young journalist of liberal ideas, who has not yet shown to be close to the Kremlin and has even participated in some opposition protests.
Her one, she said, is a protest candidacy against all.
Nevertheless, she has so far refrained from expressing criticism of Putin. She even said that she informed Putin of her decision to run for presidency. He "didn’t look happy".
A plot already written
Many observers are convinced that Sobchak's candidacy is just a page of the plot written by the Kremlin to make the elections seem legitimate and to pulverize the opposition vote.
Already in September, the newspaper Vedomosti wrote that the presidential administration was considering asking Sobchak for candidacy.
"It's a lie," she wrote on her blog. "I have never had any direct or indirect contact with the presidency over this issue. I do not need their blessing. "
Sobchak’s father, Anatoly, was a prominent figure, mayor of St. Petersburg in the 90's when Putin was his deputy. And Putin himself has told on many occasions he is in debt to him.
Sobchak's candidacy is for some only a makeup operation to refresh the image of 'friendly opposition', filled with old men like communist Gennady Zyuganov and ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky.
Aleksei Navalny - believed to be Moscow's most credible Putin’s foe - is capable of moving a huge critical mass of educated young people, but the prospect of running for presidential candidates is far from over. He was recently released after 20 days in prison, and no one can tell if his problems with justice are over.
Really do Russians will miss Putin?