Jan 27, 2021
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In Europe, the name of Putin’s successor is called, and this is not Medvedev

Photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin

Photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin (Photo: Stanislav Krasilnikov / TASS)

Successor Vladimir Putin a prime minister may become the president of Russia Mikhail Mishustin, to this conclusion Western experts came.

“A year ago, few people heard about this Russian policy even in Russia, let alone abroad. But, surprisingly, the Russians liked Mikhail Mishustin, who became prime minister a year ago. And he has a chance to take the presidency after Putin, many politicians and experts believe. It is estimated that almost 60% of Russians trust Mishustin, ”says a piece on the Czech news portal iDNES. cz

According to experts, Putin is supported by 65-69 percent of Russians. That is, Mishustin has very good indicators.

The publication reminds that Mishustin was appointed head of the cabinet in January last year, and analysts interpreted this as a possible beginning of a “transit of power”, although no one undertook to predict which scenario the Kremlin would finally choose. According to some experts, the unknown figure of Mishustin was supposed to give Russians the impression of change and help the regime maintain control over the local elites, who are fighting among themselves for the president’s favor. At the same time, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Mishustin was able to demonstrate his leadership skills against the backdrop of a crisis in the health care system and the departure of the Russian president into the shadows because of this.

It is noted that the prime minister’s post in Russia is traditionally considered a test for future presidential candidates. Commentators believe that some of the messages about Mishustin are clearly of a marketing nature and they read that the prime minister is clearly interested in becoming the president’s successor, even if there is no talk about it so far.

However, the publication notes that it is premature to discuss possible successors, since Putin’s departure is unlikely in the near future. Thanks to the constitutional reform that the Russian parliament approved last year, all presidential terms of the 68-year-old Putin were reset, and thus the doors to the presidency until 2036 are open to him. However, some observers, the current position of Mishustin suggests that the prime minister has unexpectedly turned into a figure, from whom, if necessary, unlike the unpopular Medvedev, it will be difficult to get rid of …

– If the development of events does not take some unexpected turn, caused, for example, by the economic crisis or the appearance of political investors ready to finance the creation of a mass protest movement, then Mishustin, it seems to me, has practically no chance of becoming a successor, – says Dmitry Galkin, political columnist for the 2000 newspaper

– It seems to me that he was able to take the post of Prime Minister largely because none of the groups trying to defend their own scenario of the transit of power considered him as a possible contender for the position of head of state. Since none of the big ones could allow the position of prime minister, which allows the struggle for supreme power, to go to competitors, everyone agreed that the government should be headed by a person who is not directly connected with any of the leading intra-government groups. Therefore, if an economic collapse does not occur, and the growth of protest sentiments does not result in a series of mass demonstrations in various regions, Mishustin will leave his current post as soon as the candidacy of a successor is determined, with which all leading players agree.

“SP”: – It is emphasized that just recently no one even heard of him, but today many Russian citizens trust him. Is it real? Do they trust? Is it straight 60 percent versus 65-69 for Putin? Where does this data come from?

– After society finally ceased to expect a rapid improvement in the social situation (this happened, in my opinion, in 2018), the level of trust in a politician depends mainly on how often he is shown on TV. Since Mishustin, whom none of the groups that control the media consider as an enemy, is shown quite often and always in a positive context, the level of trust in him is quite high. It is clear that Putin, who is shown even more often and certainly as an extremely successful statesman, has an even higher level of trust. But, as we can see, it is comparable with Mishustin. This approach of society to assessing political figures, in my opinion, is determined by the fact that Russian citizens do not really trust the authorities too much. However, there is no real alternative to them in the Russian information and political space. Therefore, at the mass level, no critical attitude is formed towards those whom the most popular media show as politicians enjoying mass support.

“SP”: – According to the Czech publication, Mishustin was able to show his leadership skills against the background of the crisis in the health care system and the departure of the Russian president into the shadows because of this. Do you agree? On the contrary, some experts believe that Mishustin was appointed a lightning rod …

– Mishustin cannot become a lightning rod, if only because the official media continue to instill that the president alone makes all important government decisions and fully controls the situation in the country. In such a situation, in order to make the Prime Minister responsible for the deterioration of the socio-economic situation, it is necessary that he publicly objected to the President at least several times and from time to time act independently. Under the conditions of the current political system, the president, who has neither dangerous rivals nor rivals capable of competing with him, automatically bears responsibility for everything that happens in the country. And the credibility of the prime minister, as I have already said, depends on how he is shown by the most mass media. If Mishustin begins to criticize publicly, the level of trust in him will quickly decline.

“SP”: – It is reported that the current prime minister is interested in replacing Vladimir Putin in the future. Can this be? Until the end of his term, many said about Medvedev that he would stay. And he simply returned power to Putin …

– It’s hard for me to say what is the real goal of Mishustna, but, at least at the public level, he never showed a desire to become the head of state. But within the Russian political system, the post of prime minister is the most convenient platform for a politician who plans (or wishes) to replace the incumbent president. Chernomyrdin, Primakov and Stepashin, who strove to take Yeltsin’s place, were prime ministers. Putin also headed the government. Yes, and Medvedev was removed from the post of prime minister, it seems to me, mainly in order to limit his presidential ambitions.

“SP”: – Why are Czechs so interested in this? And not only them. Sometimes one gets the impression that the West is more concerned with this problem than Russia. Do they really care who will be the successor? Who would they like to see in this role? And can they somehow influence the choice?

– I find it difficult to agree that Western experts are more concerned about the transit of power in Russia than Russian ones. But for the Czech Republic, this topic is indeed very important, since the Czech Republic, both for economic reasons and for geopolitical reasons, needs close ties with Russia. But today there is every reason to believe that under Putin, relations between the EU and Russia will deteriorate, and the Czech Republic, of course, will not be able to resist this trend. Therefore, the popular Czech news portal iDNES. cz and posted experts’ reflections that the current Russian president may soon be replaced by an increasingly popular prime minister. The purpose of such reasoning, it seems to me, is not to describe Russian political realities, but to interest Czech Internet users.

According to political analyst of the Foundation for the Development of Civil Society Institutions “People’s Diplomacy” Evgeniya Valyaeva, Czech analysts had too little data for analysis to make such a global conclusion.

– They refer to one of the rating indicators of the current prime minister, which looks very exaggerated. Perhaps they were confused with the recognition rating of politicians. Mishustin never showed a rating of 65 percent, even if we recall the figures of the most loyal to the authorities of the sociological services.

The simplest way to show high numbers is the approval rating, which has two answers – approve or disapprove of the government. With this calculation, the rating will always be high enough. Even if we recall the lowest-rated government of Dmitry Medvedev, the approval rating of his cabinet, according to the calculations of VITSOM, still did not fall below 35 percent.

If we take the figures of the Levada Center *, then Mishustin’s trust rating, according to their calculations, is at a much lower level. In December 2020, only 1 percent of those polled wanted to see Mishustin as the country’s president, but Putin and Navalny were on the list of choices. If we talk about the level of trust, the Levada Center defines it for Mishustin at 14 percent. Also curious figures from the “Levada Center” can be called the rating “man of the year”. Although it was again headed by Vladimir Putin, his rating has decreased since 2014 from 57 to 33 percent. Mikhail Mishustin has 13 percent, and Alexei Navalny took the fifth position with 5 percent, beating Trump, Sobyanin and Ilona Mask.

“SP”: –The Czechs believe that Mishustin himself aspires to the Kremlin …

– Mishustin still looks like a technical figure, a person-function who does not seek to acquire political subjectivity. We do not hear from Mishustin precisely politically tinged statements – neither about foreign policy, nor about domestic. For example, the chairman of the State Duma Viacheslav Volodin at the opening of the new session of parliament spoke a lot about foreign policy, criticizing the activities of Western countries. Personal positions can be heard from Sergei Lavrov and Sergei Shoigu. Even Nikolai Patrushev criticized the activities of Alexei Navalny. We do not hear such statements from Mishustin. So far, his status is closer to Mikhail Fradkov or Viktor Zubkov – to people who were prominent representatives of functional figures at the head of the government than political ones.

Sergei Sobyanin, for example, has a better chance of considering himself a successor, since his figure is more political than Mishustin. In addition to the fact that he heads such a difficult region, the Moscow mayor managed to take part in 2013 in fairly open elections, in which Alexei Navalny was his opponent. When you participate in competitive elections, people vote for you, then your political status is quoted higher than that of the appointed official, which is Mikhail Mishustin. A parallel can be drawn with the path of Vladimir Putin himself, who received his first high position through appointment, not through elections. But it is not at all necessary that this path will be repeated again.

* ANO Levada-Center is included by the Ministry of Justice in the register of non-profit organizations performing the functions of a foreign agent.

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