Staunton, May 3 – “The most important question” Vladimir Putin will be answering in the coming days and weeks is what he intends to do in 2024 at the expiration of the presidential term he will be sworn into next week, Aleksey Shaburov says. If he plans to stay in power, he might do a repeat of 2008 or he might radically change the structure of the government.
The latter course is “approximately what former Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan unsuccessfully tried to do,” the Yekaterinburg commentator says; and Sargsyan’s failure shows that “changing the Constitution is insufficient: there must be serious preparatory work with both the elite and the population” (politsovet.ru/58841-glavnye-voprosy-pered-inauguraciey-putina.html).
A third question concerns who will be in the government, something about which there is already “genuine political intrigue.” Specific individuals are less significant than the balance of forces between those who will maintain the current course; and those who will be capable of implementing new Putin directives.
“This means,” Shaburov says, “that we will again see ministers of completely different ideological colorations: nominally ‘young technocrats will coexistence with nominal ‘hawks.’ Conflicts between them will be inevitable, and the only arbiter in these conflicts wil be the president. This will allow Putin to retain real power in his hands.”
A fourth interesting question concerns the fate of the presidential administration. “Today, this is the chief organ of power in Russia and the single center of political administration, but in light of the 2024 problem, the role and even the format of the Presidential Administration may be changed.”
“If Putin wants to keep power but not remain in the presidency, then such an administration will interfere with his plans. The preservation of this super-organ will seriously strengthen whoever will become president in 2024; and that means it could be a threat to Putin’s personal power.”
Consequently, Shaburov continues, “if Putin does not intend to remain for a fifth term, he will not have any need for a strong Presidential Administration. In this case, we may see a shift of some of its functions into the government apparatus or a redistribution of roles to other institutions … But if Putin decides to remain president, then, on the contrary, we will see the further strengthening of the Presidential Administration.”
And a fifth question likely to be resolved soon involves the fate of the regions and presidential plenipotentiaries. Regional policy is likely to become more important, and one possibility would be the creation of some economic “macro-regions” that would unite the weak with the strong. But there are problems with that and so it may not happen.
The fate of the plenipotentiaries of course depends on the fate of the regions. “Immediately after the inauguration, Putin must name new plenipotentiaries to the federal districts. In principle, he may use this event to signal the beginning of regional reforms.”
If he plans to move toward economic super regions, he will have to appoint to these positions not siloviki as he has up to now but economists and administrators. “If then in May we see that the plenipotentiaries aren’t changed and the institution remains unchanged, this will be the first sign that the reform of the regions likely has been put on hold.”
In sum, Shaburov says, whatever direction Putin plans to take over the next six years is likely to become apparent “quite quickly” after he is inaugurated again.