Monday, June 29, 2020

Putin Clearly Fears He’s Becoming a Lame Duck, Mironov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 26 – Vladimir Putin said during his Russia-1 interview that the government would not function well if instead of focusing on current tasks, people were trying to figure out who would be his successor. “It is necessary to work, not look for successors.” But there are three signs, Maksim Mironov says, that the Kremlin leader feels he is becoming one.

            The Russian scholar who works in Spain argues that three aspects of Putin’s behavior in recent months concerning the proposed constitutional amendments and the way he has chosen to secure their approval show that to be the case and that he is trying to prevent others from reaching the same conclusion (

            First of all, Mironov says, Putin’s fear that he is becoming a lame duck is shown by the timing of his decision to ensure that he can remain in power. His term still has four years to run, and earlier in his rule, he not only did not discuss modifying the constitution so early but did not talk about the issue of a successor at all.

            Putin and the elite around him assumed then that his enormous popularity was sufficient to ensure that he would be re-elected and the system would remain stable. But now his popularity has declined to the point that some are beginning to ask whether that is still the case. In that context, “four years is a long time,” and Putin may face more electoral defeats in that period.

            Second, Putin’s fears about becoming a lame duck are reflected in the procedure he has chosen to push through the constitutional amendments. He has changed the basic law before but never seen the need for such voting. That was because he had a reserve of popular support, but now Putin needs to show the people and the elites that he can still generate it.

            The fact that he needs to show this to others, and possibly to himself, is an obvious indication that he and others have doubts that he has that kind of support anymore, Mironov suggests.

            And third, his choice to use “all-Russian voting” rather than a formal referendum also suggests he is worried about the possibility that he could not get support for what he wants to do any other way.  Indeed, while extending his time in office is his goal, his propaganda machine has downplayed that in favor of talk about other issues, yet another indication of his concern.

            “This means,” Mironov says, “that Putin is not entirely certain that if the people were given a direct question [on the extension of his time in office] that he would receive a positive response from it” despite the entirely “fake” procedure and his nearly unlimited opportunities for falsification.

            “In such circumstances,” the Russian scholar continues, “the significant of call elections during the next four years grows. Putin by his own visage shows that he is already uncomfortable, that he is not certain of popular support, and that his position is now shaky.”

            “Therefore,” he concludes, “the opposition must seriously focus on all regional elections and seek the defeat of candidates who are for the powers that be. The elections of the last two years have shown that this is an absolutely real possibility.” Putin’s behavior makes its achievement even more important. 

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