Rostislav Ishchenko: The People’s Mandate & “Protection Against the Fool” – Why Putin Became an Independent Candidate

Translated by Ollie Richardson


The President of Russia is trying to create a system that will work not only with Putin, but also without Putin and in addition to Putin, noted the columnist of Sputnik Rostislav Ishchenko.

Vladimir Putin has already made an important election manifesto — he said that he enters the presidential elections as an independent candidate. I will risk to assume that, despite all foreign policy progress and that in the next six years the foreign policy activity of Russia won’t decrease, the main attention of the next term of Putin will be directed inside the country and is devoted to carrying out complex and systemic political reform.

Between the fourth and twelfth year of the 21st century Vladimir Putin tried to create a working system of party and political competition in Russia. The fact of the promotion of Dmitry Medvedev in 2008 and Vladimir Putin in 2012 as presidential candidates from United Russia testifies to a stake being placed on a party system (before, in 2000 and 2004, Putin also took part as an independent candidate).

But it turned out that Russian political parties (both pro-authorities and oppositional) weren’t ready to assume responsibility for the fate of the country. Deputies with pleasure are ready to support the authorities or even to criticise them (especially for the fact that “there isn’t enough Putin”). But they simply cannot actually oppose, to create programs and a government that will work in the interests of Russia better than the appointed Putin – they don’t desire it.

This is understandable. The burden of responsibility is too big, the price from errors is too big. Why not shift responsibility to the President if it is possible?

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In this sense, the opposition parties differ from the pro-authorities ones only by the fact that the former is ready to blindly (without penetrating) reject any of Putin’s initiatives, and the latter is in the same way ready to support any of the authorities’ actions. But power without responsibility doesn’t exist. Politicians and the parties that don’t assume responsibility are becoming nothing more than a decoration.

Since political parties were incapable of providing continuity and stability to the country’s course, the Russian political system rests on Vladimir Putin. He is its core. If Putin sought lifelong power, then he would have achieved it long ago.

But the problem is that the President of Russia is trying to create a system that will work not only with Putin, but also without Putin and in addition to Putin.

And then what?

The fourth term is not necessarily the end of Putin’s reign. It is possible to become Prime Minister again. It is possible to go to Deng Xiaoping (moral authorities so high that no election to councils of an informal leader is a hindrance).

It is possible to change, finally, the Constitution, since it is not a State for a Law, but a Law for a State. I think that the final decision will be connected to what extent it will be possible to finish the necessary reforming of the system of governance.

The fourth term of Putin is focused not only and not so much on providing already achieved internal political stability, but rather on guaranteeing the continuity of Putin’s political system and its extension in the future.

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This is impossible to achieve while the president is the only carrier of national trust and the only executor of national will. In the presence of a competent and strong-willed head of State such a system can be very effective, but it doesn’t guarantee the continuity of the pursued policy for many years.

A self-regulating system

Putin, after the double experiment with the presidential nomination from a party, didn’t by accident decide to go to the elections as an independent candidate. In this case, he receives the mandate of the people for the very changes that the parties weren’t honored (more precisely, didn’t want) to make in 2008-2017.

Any political force has the right to support the President, but none of them can dictate his position on fundamental issues.

By the end of his fourth term (irrespective of whether he will continue his political career) Vladimir Putin will have to achieve from the system created by him not only efficiency, but also flexibility and continuity — the ability to work in an autonomous regime irrespective of who holds the highest position. Roughly speaking, the system must have “protection against the fool” built-in.

As the party experiment wasn’t successful, and there is no time to continue it, necessary reform will be made directly by the President based on the will and trust of the people.

Work, or you will be dismissed

Among other things, this can lead to the accelerated rotation of the political elite in Russia. The active work of the vertical and horizontal elevators will begin to bring young governors and ministers to the surface of political life even more actively — that new elite that is intended to govern the country in 2030-2050.

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Not everyone will be able to remain in power. Human errors will be corrected just as quickly. Officials will have much less time to prove their efficiency.

This is an inevitable price for the inertness of the political class that appeared in the last decade. Moreover, the President should implement reform, taking responsibility for what the political class didn’t want to take responsibility for, in conditions not only of political pressure, but also rigid external pressure being put on Russia and on him personally.

We will compare the scale of the task with the Petrovsky reforms of the beginning of the 18th century. Back then in Russia a very integral, efficient, and effective system had been created, which stimulated the country and allowed it, despite the fact that not all emperors were distinguished for their outstanding qualities, to quietly exist for two centuries. And this was not the limit — if not for a combination of the circumstances during the period between 1880 and 1917, the empire could’ve existed further.

It is precisely for solving this complex and systemic task, the solution of which will inevitably be faced with passive (and possibly also active) resistance from a part of the political elite, that the mandate of the people is also necessary for Putin. He already made Russia great again. Now it is necessary to consolidate the achievements for the ages. Then the country will become the best monument to Putin’s reign.

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