In case you’re not a patron and haven’t read my piece on Zombie Putin, rest assured that other Russia watchers are starting to notice we’re in a period which could be called “late Putinism.” Just today I’ve seen Brian Whitmore expound on the very same topic, albeit without all the Simpsons references. I suspect most of this speculation (much of it starting in the Russian press) is all due to the fact that Putin still hasn’t declared his candidacy for the upcoming election in March next year. If he’d just thrown his hat in the ring like everyone expected him to do, this whole issue could have been put off for another six-year term. Yet for some reason, Putin holds back.
Then Vedomosti reported that the Kremlin is seeking a woman to run against Putin. This was later refuted by Kremlin Press Secretary Peskov:
I certainly hope I’m not the only one that sees something amusing in the idea that the Kremlin wants to run a woman against Putin, as well as the fact that they denied it. This, folks, is just more proof that Russia’s “sovereign democracy” is just a reality TV show. The growing feeling that the Kremlin’s political technologists are running out of ideas has led some to speculate as to what novel gimmick they’ll come up with next. Medvedev the liberal back in 2008 bombed. Putin the Russian avenger from 2014 has gone stale. Perhaps Peskov is telling the truth this time, but it’s not hard to believe that someone in the Kremlin suggested running a female to take a dive against Putin in March.
Even in the very managed two-party system of the United States, there’s still evidence of competition. Hillary was seen as a shoe-in for the Democratic nomination in 2016, only to be blindsided by a Sanders campaign that punched far above its weight. Meanwhile Trump went up against more than a dozen opponents, many of them well-financed and connected, and who ticked all the boxes on the conservative Republican checklist. The result? Trump slayed them one after another. In the end, in spite of nearly all the polls. The sexual abuser with the mind of a child beat the Democratic establishment’s “most qualified” candidate. Surkov and all the political technologists in Moscow could never hope to write a better show than the 2016 presidential election.
Woman or no, Putin has at least found a way to generate uncertainty about an election in a country where elections have rarely been free nor fair- silence. What is more- he may actually succeed in generating an interest in politics in a long burnt out population. It may not be as flashy as last year’s American elections, but if Putin doesn’t declare his candidacy by the end of this year things might get interesting indeed.