OPINIONS Will Putin deliver the Russian miracle?

OPINIONS

Will Putin deliver the Russian miracle?

Global Times

03:55, March 21, 2018

(Photo: Global Times)

Incumbent Russian President Vladimir Putin has secured his victory in Sunday's presidential election with an overwhelming 76.6 percent of the vote, according to Central Election Commission data. Putin, who has been in power for 18 years, will see his rule extend for another six-year term. In 2000, he promised to bring a miracle to Russia if he was given 20 years. Now it's time he fulfills his promise in his fourth term. 

There is no denying that the situation, both domestic and international, is far worse than it was in 2012 and 2004. The current situation is only better than 2000 when Putin took over a scarred and battered Russia from his predecessor Boris Yeltsin. 
With more than 76 percent of the vote, Putin recorded his best ever election performance, amassing wider support from the Russian people. 
Russia is confronted with a plight both at home and abroad. Its people have realized that they need changes and so need to choose a leader who can lead them to a path of national rejuvenation. 
The higher turnout shows Russians have increasingly identified with the political system that took shape during the Putin era. Worship for strongmen, a traditional mentality of the Russian people, provides the psychological foundation for Putin's high approval rating over the past nearly two decades. 
Contrary to the anticipation of the West, Russia's predicament has failed to dent people's confidence in Putin. Instead, they have realized that during tough times they need a strong leader to help the country emerge from the deadlock. However, their participation in the vote and the high turnout, though a legitimate foundation for Putin's rule, is actually putting a subtle political pressure on Putin. 
Last year, Russia recorded the best economic performance since the Ukraine crisis erupted. Russia's GDP grew by 1.5 percent, the first time since 2014-15. Its foreign exchange reserves reached $40 billion in August. But these just so-so statistics could not disguise Russia's socio-economic stagnation, lack of vitality for economic reforms and social contradictions. It is unfair to attribute all these difficulties to the so-called "Putin stagnation" because the major economic hurdle lies in the inertia of the Soviet Model of Development. 
The Presidential Executive Order released on Friday stipulated national development goals for Russia until 2024, including "increase population and life expectancy to 78 years by 2024 and to 80 years by 2030; improve living standards, provide for a steady increase in real income and pensions above the rate of inflation, and reduce the number of people living in poverty by half; make Russia one of the top five global economies, including by generating economic growth rates above the global average; provide a people-friendly environment, including by improving housing conditions for at least 5 million households every year." 
Some of these objectives are just products of a brainstorm but show that Putin has drawn plans for his fourth-term government work. 
On Sunday, Putin said he would not participate in the 2030 presidential election. A 24-year-rule comes with its disadvantages for the Russian leader. Putin has to adjust the power structure between 2018 and 2024. In addition, he needs time for a power transition. 
It is not quite accurate to call Putin a strongman like Joseph Stalin. The power structure of Russia's core leadership today is far more complicated than that in the Soviet era. It is more appropriate to say that Putin has been playing a balancing role in the authoritarian system that has come into being since 2000. With a consolidated authoritarian mechanism, the next Russian president must be someone who enjoys wide popularity. 
The power transition six years later will probably take place in an unusual way, like Putin taking over Russia from Yeltsin. This will help the next president get rid of the influence of the Putin administration. Putin is confronted with several arduous tasks in his fourth term. All eyes are on him to deliver the Russian miracle he promised.

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