Who Will Be the Next President of Russia?
by Viacheslav Yatsko
In September 2005, the President of Ukraine Victor Yushenko dismissed Prime Minister Julia Timoshenko. In October 2005, I wrote a poem (available on my website, in Russian) predicting that J. Timoshenko would become prime minister again.
The other day. the mass media reported that President Yushenko was going to appoint J. Timoshenko prime minister. My prediction had come true. Inspired by this success I have decided to continue the practice of forecasting.
I must confess that to make a correct prediction wasn’t so difficult at that time. By the autumn of 2005, President Yushenko had proved to be a weak personality unable to rule the country. All the popularity he had gained during the so-called “Orange Revolution” faded away to almost nothing. His failure during the coming election was obvious and was forecast by all public opinion polls.
Against that background J. Timoshenko was clearly seen as a strong-willed personality able to consolidate the supporters of Orange Revolution. Taking into account that her main opponent Yanukovitch was supported by only 30 percent of voters her victory was quite predictable.
In Russia the situation is more complex and intriguing, because everything depends on one person: President Putin. Any polls are useless, since the next president will be the person named by Putin, who is a much more complex and unpredictable personality than the unsophisticated Yushenko. One of Putin’s habits is to make sudden, unexpected appointments of high-ranking Russian officials.
A typical example is the appointment of Fradkov, who had been completely unknown to general public, to the position of prime minister. Nobody expected or could have foreseen that appointment, and no one in the mass media named him a candidate for the position.
The same goes for the candidate for the position of Russian president. Since the last presidential election in 2004, all sober people in this country have been fascinated and puzzled by a mystery: whom will Putin choose as his successor in 2008?
A nimble journalist recently published a book entitled 2008 to earn decent money by describing disasters taking place in that year. There are even people who conjecture that Putin will again run for the presidency in 2008. I must say that I completely disagree with such irresponsible statements. I trust Putin, who has repeated many times that he won’t violate Russia’s constitution, which prohibits one person from occupying the presidency in two consecutive terms — although Putin has never excluded his resuming the presidency in 2012.
In this paper I will name the future president of Russia and try to substantiate my choice by taking into account the following correlated factors:
- Some specific features of Putin’s personality and disposition.
- Some specific features of Russian public opinion.
- The current political situation in Russia
- Putin’s own words and hints scattered about interviews, press conferences, and speeches.
In March 2004, just after he was elected President for a second term, Putin gave a press conference at which one of the questions was about his successor in 2008.
V.Tsypliaev (a reporter): “It is common knowledge that the preparation for the next election starts just after the previous election. Do you have any notion of the person whom you would like to see as your successor, and when will the selection of the candidate begin?”
Putin (earnestly): “The selection of the candidate began a long time ago; four years ago.” [source]
Putin’s words are very characteristic of the contemporary political situation in Russia and reflect precisely the existing feudal system of transference of power. The next Ruler isn’t an independent person elected by public vote, he is a Successor appointed by the current Ruler.
The election will take place, of course, but its results can never contradict the Ruler’s will. The election is a democratic formality designed to ratify the Ruler’s decision so that it can come into effect.
You, my Reader, might think that I denounce this system; if so, you are badly mistaken. On the contrary, I approve of this practice and wholeheartedly support it, as do the overwhelming majority of Russians. This system of power transfer perfectly fits the economic and political situation in Russia as well as the psychology of the Russian people. If a person not appointed by the President suddenly comes to power, it will mean the repartition of government property (oil and gas companies first of all) and is sure to cause economic and political disasters.
In fact, all of Russian history shows that upsetting any existing system of power transfer causes devastating disasters. Such a catastrophe took place at the end of the 16th century, when, after the death of Ivan the Terrible, Boris Godunov came to power, murdered Ivan’s only son, and then suddenly died, himself.
After Godunov, power was seized by a group of magnates who immediately began to rob and plunder. The country went to pieces: its northern part was occupied by the Swedes, and Polish invaders seized Moscow. The period that historians now call “the Distempered Times” darkened Russia. Only nationwide revolt liberated the country, and in 1613 representatives of all social layers of Russian society elected Mikhail Romanov as tsar. Perhaps it was the only and the last free election in Russian history
The next turning point in Russian history took place in 1917, when the last Romanov tsar, Nicolas I, was dethroned and then, when the Communists came to power, was murdered with all his family. The revolution was followed by civil war, and Russia lost millions of people as well as vast territories.
Under the Soviet Union the rulers were elected for life by a dozen members of the Politburo (Political Bureau of the Communist Party) .
The next catastrophe occurred in the beginning of the 1990’s when, after Gorbachëv’s resignation, power was seized by a dozen magnates (the so-called oligarchs), who, using President Eltsin as a decoration, began to rob and plunder. They become the richest people in the world.
As a result, Russia lost millions of people and vast territories. Giving Eltsin his due, I must admit that he did one wise thing: he suggested Putin as his successor, thus introducing a new practice of power transfer.
Putin turned out to be a lucky choice for Russia. Just after his election, oil and gas prices went up and they are still rising. That is why many Russians want Putin to be elected for a third term: they intuitively associate high oil and gas prices and economic stability with Putin’s name. They are instinctively afraid that when he is not in power prices will fall again.
Putin began to rule with a rod of iron. He cracked down on the oligarchs, imprisoning Khodorkovsky, the richest and most influential of them, and concentrating all power in his own hands. Maybe this is what Messrs. Bush and Chaney are referring to when they state that there is less democracy in Russia under Putin. Of course the rule of a dozen oligarchs is much more democratic than the rule of one person.
Having finished this historical digression, I now proceed to the requirements that the future president of Russia must meet.
1. The first requirement was formulated by Putin in a recent interview. He said that the candidate for the presidency must be decent, honest, and able to take responsibility for his decisions . I think Putin is well aware that there isn’t a single decent and honest high-ranking official in the country and perhaps in the whole world (except Putin himself, of course). So I will take the liberty to correct Putin’s words: the future candidate for the Russian presidency must seem decent, honest, and professional.
Putin is a decent person, no doubt. He is professional because after seven years of rule he still enjoys the support of a majority of Russians. He is hard-working: he is constantly traveling across Russia and abroad. One day we see him in a tank; the next day, in a fighter plane; the day after that, in a submarine. He really seems tireless in entertaining himself.
Russia’s President is in no sense an irresponsible person. His sense of responsibility was distinctly displayed during Beslan school hostage crisis when he disappeared and was silent for two weeks. The same happened during the Nord-Ost tragedy.
Other examples of Putin’s responsibility are the successful transfer of islands in the Amur River to China; a promise to cede two Kuril islands to Japan (the Japanese ungratefully rejected the generous proposal), and the closing of Russian military bases in Cuba and Vietnam.
Putin’s sense of responsibility is rather comprehensive and has a wide range. He is responsible not only to the Russian people but to the Chinese, Americans, and Japanese.
Many people wonder: what position will Putin take after 2008? I can confidently forecast: U.N. Secretary-General.
2. The second requirement corresponds to Putin’s habit of making unexpected appointments. Recently he confirmed it himself, saying that the candidate he would name was not widely known. So we can safely dismiss as possible candidates such persons as Medvedev, the vice-prime minister, and Ivanov, the defense secretary, who constantly appear on TV screens and are thought by many mass media to be possible successors.
Putin is sure not to choose one of the political party leaders, such as Zhirinovsky or Ziuganov. He will choose from one of his friends or acquaintances with whom he worked.
3. The Successor must be connected with the security services; he must be either an acting or former KGB man or at least a policeman. The KGB men are disciplined; they obey commands without asking questions. Putin finished higher KGB school, worked as a resident in Germany and left the KGB with the rank of lieutenant-colonel.
Many of Putin’s former KGB colleagues have been appointed ministers, high-ranking officials, and representatives. During his rule, the number of policemen tripled; they and staff members of Federal Security agency (the modern KGB’s counterpart) get the highest salaries among the government officials. Being a former KGB man, Putin is naturally expected to choose one of the colleagues as a successor.
4. The Successor must be an amiable person, a charismatic personality. Putin makes an impression on Russian women, and many of them are crazy about him. My own wife likes his appearance. I have always been surprised by that: what can be so attractive in a short, bald-patched man who looks like a tailor’s dummy?
But fact remains fact: Putin is charismatic. Taking into account that Russian women constitute the majority of the population and are more disciplined than men in participating in elections, I can safely say that a bug-eyed monster from outer space would have no chance at all against him.
5. He must be healthy, energetic, and comparatively young. Like Putin. People in this country are sick and tired of rulers who can hardly move their upper and lower extremities. The older generation well remembers Brezhnev, who could hardly speak, and his successors Chernenko and Andropov, who died of old age one by one in less than a year after coming to power. And everybody remembers Eltsin’s frequent illnesses when he had to go to the hospital, and the whole country wondered whether or not the sleazebag would die.
On coming to power, Putin impressed everybody as a good sport able to ski in the mountains or participate in a wrestling competition. After Putin, nobody will accept a physical wreck as a Successor, and I think Putin realizes it. Such people as former Prime Minister Primakov have no chance in spite of the great respect they enjoy.
6. The Successor must be a native-born Russian. So far, Russians constitute the majority of the population and will never vote for a representative from another ethnic group, especially if he is a Moslem, for example a Tatar or a Chechen. That is why Shoygu, the Minister of Emergency Situations, who comes form Tuva, has no chance. The same goes for Nurgaliev, the Minister of Internal Affairs.
On the other hand, representatives of Slavic nations, especially people with Ukrainian or Byelorussian surnames may have a chance, especially if they were born in Russia. Lukashenko, the President of Byelorussia, is popular here, and if the two countries merge, he has a good chance. However, he is very unlikely to be named by Putin as his successor.
Finally I will name a candidate to the Russian presidency. He is Konstantin Romodanovsky. Have your ever heard of him? If not, I’ll give you some facts.
Konstantin Rodomanovsky Born in 1959, he is younger than Putin and has a rather attractive — I can say even noble — appearance (see photo). No wonder: he comes from an ancient Russian noble family, and one of his ancestors, Prince Fëdor Romodanovsky, was a faithful associate of Peter the Great and ruled Russia when the Tsar was traveling abroad.
Fëdor Rodomanovsky Compare this picture of Prince Romodanovsky (taken from the encyclopedia of Cyril and Methodius) with a photo of Konstantin Romodanovsky and you will find a striking likeness between them.
Konstantin Romodanovsky has worked as a medical man, graduated from higher KGB courses, and, under Putin, held a high position as a lieutenant-general in the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Though not widely known, he has made himself a reputation for fighting corruption in the police force. Currently, General Romodanovsky is head of the Federal Migration Agency and very seldom appears on television.
I think Putin will make a correct choice in naming Romodanovsky as his successor. The latter meets all requirements described above and has every chance to be liked by the Russian public. He is sure to continue Putin’s policy without damaging the political and economic system of Russia. He is the person to guarantee a smooth transference of power from Putin and perhaps back to Putin in 2012. This is the right choice, Mr. President!
Copyright © 2006 by Viacheslav Yatsko