Russian President Vladimir Putin is leading the list of candidates of the main pro-Kremlin party in the December elections, giving him a guaranteed seat in Parliament and possibly even the post of Prime Minister.
Putin has said the party’s expected landslide win will give him a moral right to influence government, something his supporters entirely agree with:
“Why is Putin so great?”, asked lawyer Pavel Astakhov who heads a new organisation urging him to remain in power, “because in eight years he has protected the country from being plundered, torn apart and demeaned and due to this alone he should be considered a good president.”
The Kremlin has denied having anything to do with the movement to make Putin national leader, claiming it is a grassroots initiative. But last week, at a meeting with workers in Siberia, Putin hinted he could see himself continuing to lead the country.
The gathering in the historic city of Tver is the most visible of the recent pro-Putin demonstrations to have taken place across Russia’s 11 time zones. The delegates at the conference have formed a coalition of pro-Putin groups with the aim of seeing him continue to lead Russia:
“We are a great nation and we have learned a lot and understood a lot thanks to the fact that at the helm today stands a responsible man who is quite capable of leading the country.” said delegate Vladimir Vasilievich Voronin.
Observers in the West are convinced that Putin will not change Russia’s constitution to allow himself to stay on as President. But they all agree that retirement from politics is not an option for him either:
“I am still convinced that President Putin, as he has stated many times, is prepared to leave office after two continuous terms and then perhaps return to office at the same point in the future. I think what he can to make the conditions happen that he could return to office at some point in the future.”
But on the streets, opinion is divided. For some, life in Putin’s Russia has not improved:
“There have been practically no improvements for pensioners, just talk. Putin said that pensions were being raised by ten euros, but here in Tver they’ve gone up by only three euros.” said one pensioner.
While he cannot stay on as President beyond next March, it seems Vladimir Putin is determined to retain power in one form or another.