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October 2, 2007
Putin's Resurrection of "The Cult of Personality"
To no one's surprise, Russian President Vladmir Putin, banned from seeking a third term, will keep his hands on the levers of power after he leaves office by running for Parliament:
Mr. Putin, who spoke at the congress of the United Russia party, the country’s dominant political force, said he would lead that party’s candidate list in the December parliamentary elections. It is believed Putin will throw his support for President behind one of his close confidants in order to keep the President's seat warm for him until he can run again for the office in 2012.
The announcement was at once consistent and surprising. The president, who is popular among Russia’s citizens and has a centralized lock on his government, has often said he intended to remain involved in politics beyond his second term. He has even said that he may seek re-election after another president holds the office, as the Russian Constitution allows him to do.
But he had not previously suggested a new political office for himself immediately after the presidential election next March, as he did when he said he could become Russia’s next prime minister.
Even more disturbing was what the New York Times called "stagecraft" on display at this Congress.
Mr. Putin’s speech here elevated the Kremlin’s stagecraft to new levels. United Russia’s party congress led the national news broadcasts, which featured scenes of Mr. Putin sitting on an elevated viewing stand above each speaker as a crowd looked up toward him adoringly. This is exactly the kind of show that Joe Stalin would stage at party congresses past. Ordinary people would step forward pleading for Stalin to maintain his iron grip on the country. The fact that Putin has resurrected this Cult of Personality is not surprising given his behind the scenes attempt to rehabilitate the reputation of Stalin with the Russian people; a campaign that is meeting with some success.
One speaker, a weaver from the Ivanovo oblast, or district, pleaded with party officials to find a way to keep Mr. Putin in office for a third term. “I see so many big bosses and just smart people at this congress,” said the weaver, Yelena Lapshina. “I appeal to all of you — let’s think of something together so that Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin will remain the president of Russia after 2008 as well.”
One way or another, it appears the world will be stuck with Vladmir Putin running Russia for the foreseeable future.