Staunton, January 3 – According to Andrey Serenko, head of Volgograd’s Analytic Center on Russian society, there were five developments in the Russian Federation during the last 12 months that are likely to play out with potentially serious consequences during 2021 (realtribune.ru/news/authority/5686).
1. The quarantine regime and vaccinations. By late summer or early fall, the political analyst says, these will have passed and the result could become “a sharp increase in the amount of public protest actions” in response to the release of the stress people have been under. It remains unclear just how large this trend will be and how the powers will respond.
2. The appointment of Mikhail Mishustin as prime minister. Mishustin has proven remarkably effective and recalls Viktor Chernomyrdin’s role in the 1990s. It is possible that he will be considered as a replacement for Putin, but it is also possible that his very skills will lead others near the center of power to unite against him just as they did against Chernomyrdin.
3. The modernization of election procedures. Extended voting will be put to a further test during theDuma elections and possibly the holding of early presidential ones. At present, acceptance of these changes in procedures has not been universal, Serenko says.
4. A crisis in the party system. “The covid virus in 2020 ‘killed’ the parties in Russia,” driving them out of the public eye and making them largely irrelevant. Party leaders will try to recoup in the coming months, with United Russia using administrative measures. But there is a danger that this absence of parties will open the way to a Belarusian scenario in Russia.
5. Russians are tired of Putin but don’t have a favored alternative. 2020 was marked by the growing “tiredness” of Russians with the longtime Kremlin leader. He has stayed too long and has not changed as much as public opinion has. It would like a change but hasn’t fastened on anyone else, allowing Putin some breathing space.
“Sooner or later,” Serenko says, “this contradiction will grow in intensity and require a major response. It is not to be excluded,” he continues, “that this will happen already in 2021.”