The general assumption is that Putin will win the presidential election on 4 March 2012. But Russian's expectations about the aftermath vary greatly. Five alternative scenarios are possible.

Scenario 1:  Russia's economy and society have outgrown the country's obsolete political system and the country will experience a peaceful and gradual democratic breakthrough--evolution rather than, revolution. Putin's power will dwindle away, and a full democratic transition will occur within two or three years.

Scenario 2:  Putin will tighten the screws after the election and his new presidency will be more repressive than under Medvedev.

Scenario 3: Putin returns to the reform programme he adopted in 2000, which emphasized market deregulation and judicial reform. Putin carries out the necessary liberal economic and legal reforms while maintaining authoritarian power. That includes a fight against corruption, institutional reforms, a drive to wean Russia off its oil dependency, reduced government intervention in the economy, fiscal measures including pension system reform, reduction of the budget deficit, tax increases for the rich, further rounds of privatizations and restrictions on the growth of state-owned companies.

Scenario 4: An alliance between the far-left and far-right opposition in the Duma comes to the fore if the officially market-friendly regime falters. This red-brown alliance would engage in a mass confiscation of private enterprises, argue for higher public expenditures, higher taxes, and price controls.

Scenario 5: Political stability and no change in the status quo.

On thing is for certain:  it will be necessary for President Putin to internalize criticism. In healthy democracies, criticism is an abundant behaviour. The public servant-- the career politician-- must not only accept the truth that criticism goes with the profession, but approaching such activity in an unbalanced way usually leads to the replacement of the politician by voters. Western societies are always quick to criticize political opponents dependent upon the party, affiliation of the voter-- or more aptly, the "citizen". If western media disagrees with policy, media shapes reporting to ensure the politician is aware that media special interest groups are concerned about policy and desire to see change in policy. If the politician ignores these signals, media steps up pressure on the politician. These are vibrant and healthy methods in a democracy because the tactics used ensure that the "people" are informed about what their government is doing. A politician that no longer has the intenal psyche to address or dismiss criticism may become dangerous not only to the indigenous population in which he exercises political power, but increasingly to the international community of peaceful democracies whose institutions rely on criticism to find out where they are going wrong, and to bring urgent matters to the attention of the people when required. In western democracies the intelligent leader is criticized for sport, marginalized and smacked down at every opportunity. This behaviour is institutionalized in western universities, the media, and even government.     

Add new comment