By Anna SMOLCHENKO / Agence France-Presse
President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday mentioned he would seek a new six-year term in March elections, a transfer that will make him the longest-serving Russian chief since Joseph Stalin.
Putin, who has run Russia each as president and prime minister for the previous 18 years, is anticipated to sail to victory, with solely token opponents competing towards him.
“I will offer my candidacy for the post of president of the Russian Federation,” he mentioned throughout a go to to the GAZ automotive manufacturing facility in Nizhny Novgorod, 400 kilometres (250 miles) east of Moscow.
He made the widely-expected announcement surrounded by cheering staff, who had prodded him to say whether or not he would seek a fourth presidential term in a carefully-choreographed ceremony.
“There is perhaps no better place and better excuse to announce this,” Putin mentioned. “Russia will go only forward. And no-one will ever stop her.”
Predictably, Russian politicians praised the announcement.
But high Putin critic Alexei Navalny, who has declared a Kremlin bid regardless of not being allowed to run due to a suspended sentence for fraud, known as the president a “swindler.”
“I suggest we don’t agree,” Navalny, a 41-year-old Western-educated lawyer, mentioned on Twitter, referring to Putin’s plans.
– Leaving Kremlin ‘feet first’ –
Social networks have been abuzz, with many ridiculing the Kremlin strongman and a few evaluating him to Robert Mugabe, the ousted chief of Zimbabwe.
“Vladimir Vladimirovich has decided to play the old Russian game dubbed ‘Out of the Kremlin feet first,’” mentioned one critic, Aleksandr Kommari, on Facebook.
Muscovite Kirill Goncharov mentioned he went to college and graduated from college beneath Putin.
“Time — the most important thing every person has — will be wasted on Vladimir Putin realising his personal ambitions,” he mentioned on Facebook.
Putin’s assertion got here as Russia reeled from a choice by the International Olympic Committee to ban the nation from the Winter Games as punishment over claims of state-orchestrated doping.
But regardless of a litany of issues together with corruption, poverty and poor healthcare, the 65-year-old chief enjoys approval scores of 80 %.
– ‘Do you trust me?’ –
Just hours earlier Putin visited a glitzy ceremony for volunteers in Moscow the place he sought to rouse supporters.
“I want to ask, do you trust and support me?” he addressed the large viewers of largely younger individuals. “Yes,” the viewers chanted.
Prominent athletes and Soviet-era celebrities such as 83-year-old actor Vasily Lanovoi, took to the stage to extol Russian successes, such as Soviet victory in World War II.
Cosmonaut Sergei Ryazansky addressed the viewers through video hyperlink from the International Space Station.
Putin has sought to enchantment to the nation’s youth after 1000’s of younger Russians took to the streets earlier this 12 months to protest alleged corruption amongst elites, concentrating on Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev amongst others.
The demonstrations have been sparked by a documentary fronted by Navalny.
Putin first turned president after Boris Yeltsin sensationally resigned on New Year’s Eve 1999. At the top of his second term in 2008 he handed energy to his protege Medvedev.
– ‘No one on the horizon’ –
Putin then served a term as prime minister — though few doubted who was actually in charge — and returned as president in 2012.
If he extends his rule to 2024, Putin will have led Russia longer than Leonid Brezhnev, who presided over an period of stagnation from 1964 to 1982 and have become the goal of derision in his later years.
Some analysts say that after 18 years of management — each as president and prime minister — Putin fatigue could also be spreading throughout the nation.
Many Russians say they might vote for Putin just because they don’t see another, given the previous KGB officer’s chokehold on home politics.
“So far he is the only one on the horizon,” Sergei Inshakov, a 36-year-old part-time taxi driver and former skilled handball participant, instructed AFP.
“It will be better, more dependable for everyone this way.”
With the results of the election a foregone conclusion, turnout might be low, harming the Kremlin’ hopes for a transparent mandate, observers say.
According to a ballot carried out by the impartial Levada Centre pollster final month, simply 58 % of respondents mentioned they might vote, down from 75 % in December 2007.
-‘What will happen after 2018?’ –
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov mentioned this week that these figures got here forward of the beginning of a political marketing campaign and would develop.
Many anticipate Kseniya Sobchak, a 36-year-old glamourous former host of a tv actuality present and daughter of Putin’s former mentor, will doubtless be allowed to run, rekindling some public curiosity within the election.
But what comes after Putin’s anticipated re-election and later, after his new term ends in 2024, is the larger query, analysts say.
“The main intrigue is, what will happen after 2018, how the configuration of power will be changing,” Tatyana Stanovaya, a Paris-based analyst for the Centre of Political Technologies in Moscow, instructed AFP.
Speculation has swirled over the previous weeks that the Kremlin could also be contemplating adjustments to the structure or a new job for Putin in an effort to lengthen his grip on energy past 2024.
“The main task for the Kremlin is to adapt the regime to Putin’s future status — be it an extension of presidential powers or the creation of a new post,” mentioned Stanovaya. (AFP)