Editorial: the illusion race
5.05.12 18:52 By Gazeta.ru editorial
The third president of Russia is being seen off smiles that are reproachful, mocking or, at best, sympathizing. Literally everyone is disappointed by Dmitry Medvedev's rule. And they also don't see any excuse for him not to have become a progressive reformer, or even a good schemer, and be able to take power from Vladimir Putin. And for those few who admit that he at least had good intentions and profound words, are not supported by any action.
But in order to be disappointed now, one had to be enchanted by his promises earlier. Although there was no reason to take them seriously.
The four year pause before the return of Putin's presidency is a very rare phenomenon in our history. Once power is given away, no leader could get it back, neither in Soviet times nor in the era of the Tsars.
To conduct such an unusual operation successfully, the temporary regent had to have certain qualities. And Dmitry Medvedev proved he is a right man for the job by the time Putin chose him.
In 1999, before Medvedev was introduced to the highest power circles, he was not even a humble official. A few months later Medvedev was the first deputy of the head of the presidential administration and he has held high posts ever since.
None of Putin's closest had so few personal achievements in their careers. By the time Yeltsin appointed Putin his successor, Kudrin and Gref had worked in the Petersburg government, and then at serious posts in federal ministries. Sergei Ivanov was a general in SVR
After Putin headed our country, he called Medvedev from Petersburg and promoted him exactly because he had no connection to the bureaucratic environment, no experience as an official or politician. Medvedev's first election as a candidate was 2008. His second and last election was the Duma election of 2011, where he led United Russia to a disappointing result.
Medvedev's work as a dignitary in the 2000's was a very logical continuation of his career of the 90's. He was Voloshin's deputy in the Presidential administration, and he was completely shadowed by Voloshin. In 2003 Medvedev headed the administration and was completely shadowed by his own deputy Surkov. Both Voloshin and Surkov enjoy a dubious, but well-deserved fame as architects of the current regime. Medvedev has no fame of his own.
After he became a vice prime minister in 2005, he worked on "national projects" which, despite large budgets, are remembered as promotional events.
Putin knew who to promote as a one-term president. Such people seldom become high officials, and extremely seldom do they become leaders of the country. The only other case during the last century was when Konstantin Chernenko was elected General Secretary and leader of USSR, even though he was old, ill and half-dead.
In 2008 Putin could forecast that his successor just wouldn't be able to exploit the large resources of the presidential chair.
Even less-informed people were able to come to a similarly skeptical conclusion. However, during the first half of his presidency Medvedev inspired surprisingly serious expectations in sophisticated society. The reason for this was not only the common feeling of tiredness from Putin's system, but also that people saw in Medvedev what they wanted to see. Medvedev himself wanted to be a modern leader. His rhetoric and his style showed his sincere and benevolent ambition. His words were taken for a plan, partly because he himself saw it like this.
But this remained rhetoric not because the machine of power 'sabotaged anything' or Putin 'Forbade everything': the exemplary measures were not those that were unsuccessful, like the announced amnesty or anti-corruption campaign, but those put into action, those that became the examples of incompetent bureaucratic improvisation.
As examples of improvisation, we could mention the cancellation of Daylight Savings time, or the abolition of nominal blood alcohol limits for drivers, or metal detectors at the train stations, and so on.
Medvedev had many opportunities to gain some independent political heft and administrative authority, but he missed every chance, and this became quite evident by the middle of his term.
By the beginning of 2011 Medvedev popularity had fallen so low that his re-election would impossible in a free and fair competition. And it would demand a serious undertaking by the administration if the competition was to be rigged from above. Medvedev couldn't strengthen his position and started to fall out of the race. This fact rather that any earlier arrangements dictated the castling that happened in autumn 2011.
The reasons why he couldn't manage to become a strong president also won't allow him to become a strong prime minister. Surrendering his presidency, he surrenders his ideological luggage.
He is not a liberal politician, nor a progress advocate leading Russia forward, he is a core conservative, tomorrow's loyal member of United Russia. The Ex-president returns to Putin's entourage.
And we could have said that the return of the power back to Putin's hands went according to the plan if the country were the same as it was in 2008, when it elected Medvedev with Putin's recommendation.
And the differences between then and now are not just that, even officially Putin received significantly less votes than Medvedev did four years ago, 45.6 mln vs 52.5 mln. And nor are the differences only that the Moscow opposition continues their protest campaign, even on a citywide scale there's not many oppositionists. It is something else that is more important. Society, which was almost immobile 4 years ago, has started to move. Its new groups are recognizing their interests, and the political field where earlier only the bosses used to play, is starting to fill with the new players.
The outgoing president sowed illusions that he leads the country, and they were only dispersed just before the end of his rule. The old president returns with his specialty as a strong leader. His illusions that he knows where and how to lead his country will disperse even faster.
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