Russia will hold its next presidential elections in March 2018. Pluralism and competition, which generally characterize these electoral processes, are not features of Russia's political landscape. JIA interviewed Dr. Lilia Shevtsova, Associate Fellow in the Russia and Eurasia Programme at Chatham House, and asked her about prospects for democracy in Russia.
Journal of International Affairs: Where do you see the state of Russian democracy given the high likelihood of a fourth Putin presidential term?
Lilia Shevtsova: Regretfully, the prospects for Russian democracy were annihilated during Borin Yeltsin's presidency in the 1990s. After shelling the assertive parliament in the fall of 1993 and endorsing a new presidential constitution, Yeltsin pushed Russia toward a new system of personalized power. Having appointed Vladimir Putin as his successor, Yeltsin made the current authoritarian trend inevitable. Putin only added "meat" to the structure that had been built by his predecessor. It is true, however, that the new Russian leader reincarnated personalized rule in Russia by making the power structures the "spine" of his political regime.
Will Putin allow a political "thaw" during his next presidential term? It is impossible, as this would mean a return to media freedom and political pluralism, which would be suicidal for a political regime that relies on control over the political scene. Will the social protests that inevitably emerge in Russia include a democratic agenda? Will a political alternative to one-man rule emerge that could stop Russia's decline? The next three to five years will give us answers to these questions.
JIA: WJiat are the alternative scenarios if Putin were to decide not to run? Are there any candidates being considered for replacement? (1)
LS: Putin will most certainly run. What would he do otherwise? Watch a new boss in the Kremlin? Such a situation would be quite humiliating, but also dangerous. What if his successor legitimized himself by persecuting Putin? It is not possible to trust anyone in an authoritarian system. There are several people mentioned in Moscow as possible successors to President Putin; among them is Governor Alexey Dyumin of Tula, Putin's former security guard. But at this point, I do not see any reason for Putin to leave the stage unless he were to change the Constitution and make the presidency purely ceremonial. It is too late for such a drastic change, although it is true that anything can...