Russia and the Presidential Elections – Past, Present, Future

Russia, the biggest country in the world geographically, may have lost a lot of its power for the past several years but it is still a world power and everybody who thinks that Russia has lost its influence in the world either hasn’t read news for the last several years or has never been interested in business or politics.

In my opinion, what happened in the recent presidential elections must not be perceived as a surprise to anybody. President Vladimir Putin’s influence in Russia since his tenure started has significantly increased. This goes to show how impressive a politician he is. In most countries, politicians, who win a high office in the executive branch, usually stay there for one or two terms and after that they get replaced by another politician, without them being remembered by the constituency as much as Vladimir Putin will probably be remembered by the Russian people. Moreover, people all over the world usually do not pay as much attention to a politician’s endorsement of a candidate as Russians apparently did in the recent elections with Putin’s endorsement to Medvedev being critical for the his victory.

People who have followed what was going on in Russia for the last several months were convinced that First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev was going to be the next president. His substantial win of 70.2% brought doubts about whether those elections were fair enough. Election watchdogs reported that the other candidates were denied equal access to the media.

Three or four days ago I watched a report on television featuring Garry Kasparov and the difficulties he faced during his presidential campaign. In this report there was a meeting in a hall where some Russians were discussing the presidential elections. In a dialogue between two women, it became clear that they were unaware of who the other presidential candidates were and what they standed for. Besides, I got the impression that those candidates’ organized meetings on the streets were not as aspiring to the people as Mr Medvedev’s ones. The only things I heard [from their meetings] in this film were violations of the Constitution and development of organized crime. In order to win elections a candidate should also propose positive changes, not just say what some people want to hear from him or her. For example, they probably mentioned the murders of reporter Anna Politkovskaya and former KGB security officer Alexander Litvinenko. Both of the murders are things Russia should be ashamed of. However, I suppose that they never proposed how to solve such problems – how to prevent future murderers like those ones.

As to Medvedev’s campaign, some people from the opposition said that some of the young supporters were paid in order to be present there and scream slogans such as “we need Putin’s Russia”. I also remember a youths’ camp where people were talking about Medvedev as a person who represents Russia’s bright future and their being given the best conditions to bear as many kids as possible with his possible ascendance of the presidential post. The latter belief by those youths may be perceived as a sign of Russia’s return to its communist period in terms of fanatical belief of something that is not as easy to achieve as it initially looks, bearing a lot of kids, but it is not. History has already shown Russians that communism does not work. If it worked there would still be the Soviet Union and perhaps there would still be the Cold War. Bill Clinton said in his biography written by Allan Metz and Arthur Schlesinger Jr.: “History is constantly being rewritten.” However, I sort of doubt that Russia will rewrite its Soviet Union history with its Cold War attitude with the election of Dmitry Medvedev.

In my opinion, instead of turning to the past, with the election of Dmitry Medvedev Russia is looking to the future. At a closer look not only in state but also in international perspective, Mr Medvedev might be the only viable presidential candidate. Let us not forget that he is also Gazprom’s chairman. Gazprom, once one of the ministries in Russia, is the most influential provider of gas for Europe. Although it is officially a private company, over 50% of its shares are owned by the Russian government. In this case it may turn out to be that Dmitry Medvedev will even be better a president than Vladimir Putin because now every country talking to Mr Medvedev may directly talk about striking a gas deal instead of talking to Mr. Putin who was something like a mediator between Gazprom and the countries interested in Russian gas. Some may say that it is not good when such an influential figure, as Mr. Medvedev is, is both chairman of a huge corporation and president of the biggest country in the world. Whoever else is Russian president, Gazprom would still be influential so even if it is not Dmitry Medvedev on Russia’s presidential post, I cannot see any big difference in terms of the world market’s status quo. Besides, when Mr. Medvedev talks publicly as Russian president, it will be more or less as if the company talks so it will be easier to figure out what course Gazprom is about to take.

Also, what I recently read in BBC is controversial to the common beliefs that Gazprom is evil in the world market and it makes sense. In an article written by Duncan Bartlett, “Russia’s energy giant flexes its muscles”, Alexei Pushkov, a professor of International Relations, author and TV presenter said that Russia’s being perceived as a gas dictator was wrong by comparing Russia’s Gazprom with American oil companies’ influence. According to him, those are Russia’s and USA’s instruments of foreign policy. What he means is that if Russia is to be accused of increasing its influence globally with gas, then so is the U.S. with its oil.

Moreover, Gazprom denies its critics by having foreign investors like American-born James Fenkner, who also has his place in Batlett’s article. Mr. Fenkner says that Gazprom listens not only to the Russian government but to its investors as well. It looks like the people in Gazprom know how important foreign investors are in today’s business and therefore are now conducting a capitalist policy rather than a communist one.

So my opinion is that in the current Russian political situation, lacking alternatives, Dmitry Medvedev might be the only viable option for the presidential post.

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