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Putin till 2038..?

Very soon a big and countrywide change will take place in Russia. In all bureaucrats’ offices current president Medvedev's portraits will be replaced by photographs of a newly-elected head of state. Fortunately for Russian officials, this shift is likely to require minimum of efforts. Functionaries of all ranks will just need to take from the cases slightly dusty portraits of   President Putin and hang them up in conspicuous places. In the last four years, these pictures of the ‘serious and all-seeing man’ were carefully cached in safe places. Now their time is again approaching. A month before the elections, Vladimir Putin's current presidential rating is 37%, according to the independent Levada Center polling, and 52%, as governmental VCIOM reports. Anyway, his proximate rival communist Gennady Zyuganov is far behind him with his 15% of popular support.

The main question being discussed today is whether one or two tours will be needed for Putin to return to presidential seat. Of course, the level of current popular support for Putin is only a far cry from what he had in 2004, when the incumbent prime-minister became a president with 71, 31% of votes. Political rallies, starting from December 2011, after very doubtful parliamentary elections, maintain a chance to become a fly in the ointment for the dormant Russian elite and its central figure – Putin. Protesters blatantly declared that they want neither Putin's United Russia nor a president Putin in power. However, Putin still enjoys considerable popularity, kept up by three national channels of the Russian national television. Luck was also on his side this time.
The elections are taking place just three months after the start of massive protest manifestations. This amount of time is not enough for protesters to persuade the rest of the Russian society in the necessity of political changes. In a word, today's Putin still reminds us a bronze statue, but with a big spot of bird's faeces on the head. In terms of law, Putin's comeback is more than legal. According to the Russian constitution, adopted in 1993, one and the same person may not be elected president of the Russian Federation for more than two terms on end. So Putin's hat-trick nicely fits into the constitution, with a four-year break though. Just one little word in the main law of the land, probably mistakenly inserted by the lawmakers, has determined Putin's chance to make a return as president.
Meanwhile the limitation to only two terms is absolutely necessary to protect the young Russian democracy. The civil control over the supreme power is still not strong in the country, so Russia can rely mostly on the law. Along with article 81 of the Constitution, cited above, the law about political parties should be revised. Today, this unreasonably restrictive law is the main obstacle for a healthy political competition in Russia. If Putin becomes president – which is very probable now – will he initiate the revision of these laws? It would be very surprising if he does. He has not yet announced any political changes in his presidential program. Meanwhile, the twelve years of Putin's governance (eight as a president and four as a prime-minister) have demonstrated that his main priority is the reinvigoration of his personal power, which contradicts the interests of the Russian democracy.
Thus it is very likely that after the elections the protest against the constant presence of Putin in power will continue and even increase. If the ‘bronze statue’ does not want to change, it will melt in the heat of political fight. Meanwhile, Putin's example inspires the leaders of other countries. For example, the 86-year-old president of Senegal Abdoulaye Wade has recently announced his intention to go for the next seven-year term and govern till he is 90. After 11 years of presidency he does not plan to give up. Though the constitution of Senegal, unlike the Russian one, allows only two terms for one person, the African leader does not want to surrender. The constitutional court is now revising the law and deciding whether or not Wade can participate in the elections, scheduled for February 26. In what year Putin will be 93? Now it's just about time to calculate this.

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