Six Year Presidential Term Sails Through Kremlin Lower House

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Some might recall that Hillary Clinton, who good money suggests will officialy secure the position atop the State Department soon, once remarked that Putin ‘doesn’t have a soul.’ This bridge will will require some maintenance work in early 2009.
Though the lack of an offical title has not constrained Putin’s control, as early as next year Putin could formally have the reigns of ‘mother Russia’ once again. It would only require that his successor, Dimitry Medvedev, step aside, thus moving elections up from 2012 to somepoint in 2009.
The fact that Putin — rather than Medvedev — offered the soothing address to the United Russia party this week, guaranteeing the stability of the economy and the government’s capacity to work through the global financial crisis, speaks volumes to the place he holds, and his legacy as premiere.
But to those looking at this as a ‘great rollback’ against democracy, I’m forced to pose the question: which is more damning, that he may seek reelection — which is already outlined in the constitution as permissible, as long as it’s not a third CONSECUTIVE term — or that he currently wields so much power as Prime Minister?
I contend that the power he still controls, more than the likelihood of him returning to the seat of power, is main cause for concern. The argument can be made that the likelihood of his return to power is the very force retaining his influence. If that’s the case, then certainly a constitution that provides for more than two terms, rather than the length of those terms, is the problem we ought to be discussing.
Democracy is a fickle being; and an indisputably organic phenomenon. That the constitution provides for a third, nonconsecutive term carries an important message about Russia, and its values in relation to governance. It echoes the importance of stability, as compared with the fear of overreach.
Furthermore, as America searches for its own leaders to believe in; as it looks out upon a more terrifying global recession than most of us have ever seen; it’s difficult to assail another nation for turning to the leader whom it trusts so deeply.
So I put it to you — is this a referendum on Russia, or the terrifying times we face? Is this step dangerous and unnerving, or a far less unsettling step than what is already outlined in the Russian constitution?
Brian Till

Comments

18 comments on “Six Year Presidential Term Sails Through Kremlin Lower House

  1. Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi says:

    The world history would find no let and confusion in recording the fact that Russia under the Putin regime probably regained the lost paradise that was once the glowing identification of the former superpower of the cold war era.

    Reply

  2. Tuma says:

    “How can you expect to be taken seriously when you say such
    ridiculous things?”
    How can you expect to be taken seriously when you deny such
    things?

    Reply

  3. arthurdecco says:

    Tuma said: “Canada isn’t a totalitarian state. Russia certainly is. Venezuela has some of the trappings.”
    How can you expect to be taken seriously when you say such ridiculous things?.

    Reply

  4. Richard says:

    If there is a great deal of confidence among the vast majority of Russians that Putin can guide the country through a difficult economic and political times, then why should others feel that a third term or extended presidency is somehow unusual? The idea of term limits has partly to do with bringing in new ideas and the knowledge that incumbents, and particularly long-term incumbents, are 1)very hard to remove (even when indicted), 2) have no new ideas and 3) tend toward corruption. However, there is nothing inherently wrong with multiple terms or a 6 year presidential term. Arguably, the only reason the US has a presidential limit is because Republicans were terrified of the possibity of another FDR.
    The issue for Russians remains what type of society they wish to develop. After almost 15 years living and working in the former Soviet Union, with many of those years in the Russian Federation, I have witnessed the gradual erosion of press freedom and destruction of opposition leaders. Challenges to United Russia are not tolerated. It is hardly a democracy when debate and choice are suppressed. But, as long as the growing middle class and the elite are kept happy, the social and political environment is unlikely to change.
    However, Putin now has to deal with his own economic crises which is largely the result of falling oil prices. Russia, it should be remembered, makes nothing anyone wants – except oil and gas. It’s economy is not diversified and despite great deal talk about the need to do so, typical Russian inertia has taken hold.
    Politically, Putin over-reached in Georgia – even accepting that Georgia provoked the retaliation. Putin’s personal dislike of Georgia’s president (like Bush’s personal crusade in Iraq)has resulted in Russian acquisition of two pathetic regions of Georgia over which Tbilisi has had no control for decade. Georgia, on the other hand, will receive over $5 billion in aid from the EU and the US. Russia has seen the Black Sea turn from a personal lake to a patrol zone for NATO warships. Russian muscle flexing has raised alarms in the Baltic states and Poland, and extreme watchfulness in the EU. If Russia loses its lease in Sevastapol in 2015 that would be a blow to its prestige. South Ossetia and Abhazia did not result in a good trade-off.
    Having said that, Russia deserves more public respect than it has received and there are many opportunities to rebuild bridges to Moscow. But Russia’s proclivity for economic – and now military – bullying of its neighbors is a direct result of Putin’s personality and his need to maintain Russian pride. Russia needs Europe, so I expect that the Georgian adventure will not be repeated. Whether Russia will be democratic – with a free media and true opposition parties – is in the hands of the Russian people. A third term? Extended term? Does it really matter without opposition parties? Not really.

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  5. K Galt says:

    Hillary questioning whether Putin has a “soul” is pathetic. Coming from a woman who has blood on her hands from her vote for the 2002 war resolution and her persistent support for Israel’s illegal and immoral activities. Hillary has no room to question whether Putin has a “soul”.
    She should turn that finger around and point it towards Hillary

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  6. b says:

    “If Putin doesn’t run for President again then what was the point to putting these changes into place now? ”
    Because the people of Russia and their elected parliament members think the changes make sense?
    “Because Canada isn’t a totalitarian state. Russia certainly is. Venezuela has some of the trappings.”
    What please is totalitarian with Russia? Ask the Russian people. Except for a few lunatics, non of them think Russia is totalitarian.

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  7. Tuma says:

    “Why should that be the case for Russia…or Venuzuela, for that
    matter?”
    Because Canada isn’t a totalitarian state. Russia certainly is.
    Venezuela has some of the trappings.

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  8. Robert Barr says:

    “It is by no means sure that Putin will run for president again.”
    That is laughable. If Putin doesn’t run for President again then what was the point to putting these changes into place now?

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  9. arthurdecco says:

    A Canadian Prime Minister can run for office for as long as he or she likes, for as many times as their party and the electorate will have him or her – much like American Senators. I don’t hear Americans accusing Canada of being a totalitarian state because we don’t have term limits on our political leader. Why should that be the case for Russia…or Venuzuela, for that matter?

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  10. JohnH says:

    More pushback against US’ forward-leaning foreign policy, and evidence that aggressiveness is counter-productive: Russia to build nuclear reactor for Hugo Chavez.
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/southamerica/venezuela/3480735/Russia-to-build-nuclear-reactor-for-Hugo-Chavez.html
    Nick Day, a Latin American specialist, said the nuclear deal was deliberately timed to pile pressure on the US administration during a moment of transition and weakness.
    “Russia is manoeuvring hard in the time between Obama’s election and his inauguration. What the Russians are trying to do is to set up a chessboard that gives them greater mobility in negotiations when he [Obama] comes to power,” he told the Guardian.
    He added: “Russia’s message is: ‘WE CAN EXERT INFLUENCE IN YOUR BACKYARD IF YOU CONTINUE TO EXERT INFLUENCE IN OUR BACKYARD. If you don’t take your missiles out of Poland and end Nato expansion we’re going to increase our influence in Latin America and do things to provoke you.'”
    Rather than worry about Russian democracy, the US needs to worry about the collateral damage caused by its unnecessarily belligerent foreign policy.

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  11. Anders Widebrant says:

    It’s really all part of a package when it comes to Putin’s Russia. In themselves, neither the term limits nor the strong role of prime minister Putin are exceptional — perhaps not even all that noteworthy. They’re not indications of a democracy gone wrong but rather the signs of Russia’s political system operating normally.
    Analytically speaking, it’s better to think of Russia as exceptional, not least because it’s a closer match to how Russians see their own nation. It shares many of the terms used in the west, but their meaning is very different (a bit like how the word “liberal” is interpreted in America compared to Europe, but on an altogether different scale). The Russian meaning of things like “parliament”, “opposition party”, “court” or “business ownership”, to take some examples, should not be taken to mean the same thing that they do in America or Europe.
    None of this is to excuse the serious problems in Russian society. A discussion of those have to start from the bottom up, though.

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  12. Kate in Michigan says:

    I have a client in Russia who is a businessman. Both he and his wife are very well educated, and he is also a student of history. He has called Putin “His Majesty”, but states that the Russian people willingly elected Putin. After the social and economic turmoil of the 1990s, the Russian people finally found someone who will give them some stability. The majority of Russians are willing to sacrifice some democratic freedoms for stability, pure and simple, and they are aware of what they are doing. They are more concerned about the drop in the price of oil and the resulting drop in national revenues. They also like the elevation of their status in the world under Putin. I believe that if Putin were not in charge, someone very much like him would be. And I also think the US has more important things to worry about at the moment than whether Vladimir Putin is able to run for the third term as president. I’m just glad George Bush can’t run again for President.

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  13. b says:

    Hmm – the author knows little of Russia.
    “The fact that Putin — rather than Medvedev — offered the soothing address to the United Russia party this week, ..”
    Of course he did. Putin is, since April, chairman of the party while Medvedev as president is supposed to be party neutral.
    That does not say anything about who is leading political. Medvedev is at least as important as Putin. ‘Western experts’ tend to get that wrong and thereby misinterpret Russia’s intention.
    It is by no means sure that Putin will run for president again.
    “Democracy is a fickle being; and an indisputably organic phenomenon. That the constitution provides for a third, nonconsecutive term carries an important message about Russia,”
    Yeah, and Germany had four consecutive terms of Chancellor Helmut Kohl … now what does that say about Germany?
    Just note – term limits are certainly not a universal value.

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  14. daCascadian says:

    You folks take these soap operas far too seriously. Maybe you should start thinking about looking behind the curtain a little more.
    Let him play.
    “…it`s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine…” – REM

    Reply

  15. Gary says:

    Come on, we’ve known Putin has run the show all along. I’m much more afraid of what our economy brings than the drama in Russia. I think we can read the Russia situation better than we an this power vacuum the two months.

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  16. JohnH says:

    Watching Russia will prove to be an interesting soap opera, and I’m sure that the foreign mob will wax eloquent about Russia’s shortcomings.
    But the real quesstion is, ‘so what?’
    We’ve witnessed 8 years of counter-productive policies at the hands of “Russia expert Condi.” The good news is that we’ve survived, despite Russia’s resurgence and Washington’s constant grousing about it.
    For the next 8 years, maybe we should resolve to drop the counter-productive nonsense and aim for benign neglect. It worked wonders in Latin America, where democracy is thriving.

    Reply

  17. Ben D says:

    Brian,
    If only the Russian people’s and state’s longing for a strong
    authoritarian leader was a response to immense economic
    uncertainty… however, it is no new phenomenon, as Putin, and his
    quest for absolute rule and stoking of Russian nationalism, were
    embraced by the Russian people wether oil was $20 a barrel or
    $147.
    If we hope to change Russia’s domestic and international attitude,
    we need, sadly, to do more cajoling and hand-holding and assure
    the Russian PEOPLE that we view them as a strong, proud race that
    does not need to petulantly flex its (limited) muscles whenever it
    feels disrespected or suffers a bout of national emotional
    insecurity.

    Reply

  18. Matt says:

    Democracy? In Russia? That was extinguished about 15 years ago, when Yeltsin firebombed the parliament for opposing him. Gimme a break…

    Reply

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