Is Putin in the presidential race or out? The latest theory, according to an advisor to the United Russia party is that Putin will not run, but will instead carve out a role for himself as “national leader” (h/t R):
“Putin is strengthening his right to rule without a formal status as president or prime minister so he can dodge problems as a leader of a popular front and simply as a leader of the nation,” Mikhail Vinogradov, head of the research group and member of an advisory board at Putin’s United Russia party, said today in a telephone interview.
Is this the way it will play out? Your guess is as good as mine. Is this a trial balloon? Misinformation? Put out by whom, and for what purpose? Again, your guess is as good as mine.
But it is not outside the realm of possibility, and would have precedent from Soviet days, when real power did not necessarily rest with those who had formal positions, e.g., the Presidency of the USSR was a largely formal position, and real power was exercised by those with party positions.
Precedent or no, this would represent a further step in the devolution of Russian politics towards personal rule, a cult of personality, and a further de-institutionalization of an already institutionally underdeveloped polity. It would be presidentialism without the president. It could potentially reduce some uncertainty in the short run, at the expense of creating major uncertainty over succession in the medium term with no institutionalized mechanism to resolve it. In other words, it would exacerbate, rather than ameliorate, all of the worst tendencies in Russian politics. Which would tell a cynic that it’s likely to happen.
The other is-he-in-is-he-out news relates to Prokhorov. Remember he was in as Right Cause leader, then voted out, then came back, but left of his own accord. Or something like that. Now he is supposedly negotiating his reinstatement.
Put your Prokhorov in, take your Prokhorov out, put your Prokhorov in, then you shake it all about. . . .