News

Putin to Resume Presidency

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin during a meeting with the main Kremlin party United Russia in Moscow, April 24, 2012.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin during a meeting with the main Kremlin party United Russia in Moscow, April 24, 2012.
James Brooke

On May 7, Vladimir Putin returns to the Kremlin to rule Russia as president. He inherits one of Europe's strongest economies. But he also faces a changed political reality - a better informed Russian populace that has learned to stand up to its leaders.

When Putin returns to Russia's presidency on Monday, he will inherit an economy that is the envy of Europe.

The government budget is balanced. Debt, inflation and unemployment are low. Reserves are high. And, the economy is growing at more than 4 percent - almost three times the level of Western Europe.

But this prosperity depends heavily on high oil and gas prices.

Anders Aslund, a Russia specialist at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, warns that Putin needs to diversify Russia's economy - and to save for drops in energy prices.

"Within the next two years, the oil price will peak out, if it hasn't already. Then we should expect a more moderate oil price. And, that means that he will have to economize," said Aslund.

Call for political freedom

For some Russians, high commodity prices have brought affluence. For others, the key is simply stability. And, with stability, they are asking for more political freedom.

Gleb Pavlovsky, a former Kremlin advisor, says Putin faces a different Russia than the one he ruled in 2008. That is the year he surrendered the presidency and became prime minister.

Pavlovsky says that Russia is no longer a virtual monarchy. The street protests of last winter popped the illusion that Putin is infallible.

In response to last December's protests, President Dmitry Medvedev announced political reforms.

Six months later, critics say one reform - direct elections for governors - has been changed to the point where the Kremlin will have veto power over candidates. A second reform - making it easier to register political parties - is splintering the opposition into dozens of little parties.

Konstantin von Eggert, a columnist for state news agency Ria Novosti, believes that civic movements will prove to be the building blocks for a more open political system in Russia.

"The current wave of protests was proceeded around 2006, 2007, 2008 or 2009 by a huge increase in charitable and voluntary activities among Russians, especially in the big cities," said von Eggert. "These were not supposed to be political things, and lots of these people were saying, you know we are not in politics, we just helping people who suffer from forest fires or orphaned children, or organizing gift collection for the homeless."

Changed political reality

This new sense of empowerment is creating a Russia that talks back to its leadership.

In mid-April, Putin visited Russia's Duma to give his last address as prime minister. When he made light of a mayoral candidate's hunger strike, an opposition group of deputies stood up and walked out.

Two weeks later, the candidate suspended his hunger strike after forcing central election authorities to admit widespread voting irregularities in his city, Astrakhan. Meanwhile, in three other major cities, opposition candidates were elected mayors in the last two months.

Russians now ask - will Putin be flexible enough to adapt to this new reality and serve to the end of his six-year term?

Pavlovsky, the former Kremlin aide says Putin is one of the most flexible politicians he knows. But he says that if Putin cannot reach out and build new partnerships and build a new political consensus, Russia will face a political crisis within a few years.

One topic that unites Russian people against the government is corruption.

Transparency International ranks countries on the perceived level of corruption, with the lowest score representing the worst corruption. Last year, Russia came in 143rd place, tied with Nigeria, also a major oil exporter.

In the fight against corruption, a blogger called Putin's ruling United Russia Party "the party of crooks and thieves." The label stuck, and last week, Putin handed leadership of the party to Medvedev.

"Russia is different in the sense that fear and hopelessness are gone from Russia. And, I think that they are gone for good," said the columnist Von Eggert.

Now, as Vladimir Putin starts a new six-year term in the Kremlin, the question is - can he stay on top of a more transparent, more pluralistic society?

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Ed Dolan
May 06, 2012 5:04 PM
I agree that Russia is doing better than some countries of Western Europe, but still, the Russian economy is no longer the big plus for Putin that it once was. Macro policy is not being managed as well as when Kudrin was finance minister, and altho Russia has lots of oil, it's mostly high-cost oil. See full analysis here: http://tiny.cc/gqt9j

by: Jacques
May 05, 2012 6:39 AM
As free as the wind! Now that it's official and the Lada is to be retired an indication that Putin like Peter the Great is trying to modernize (westernize) Russia the question to me is ? Was Mr. as Putin while Prime Minister able to modernize his bureaucracy so that transparency and rule of law will abate international criticism while allowing democracy to evolve?

by: Gennady
May 02, 2012 6:06 PM
To GREEN: You’re unaware of the mismanagement of the economy. Russia is a land of a record number of billionaires and awashed with petrodollars but its 70% of infrastructure is worn out and close to technogenic catastrophes. Up to 90% of population live in poverty, average monthly pension is 285-300$ (1 kilo of meat 10$).Unemployment is low due to dying-out population, shortage of qualified staff, works, factories & mills are shut, public education, healthcare & science are beyond repair.

by: Green to Gennady
May 02, 2012 7:50 AM
Gennady, What I would like to mention is the management of the economy not the election. Democracy is not the son of poverty, chaos, disorder, unemployment and so on. The grass is always greener on the other side of the hill. Obama cannot compare with Putin!

by: Gennady
May 02, 2012 4:44 AM
To GREEN:
Certainly, “Putin is among the most capable…” as he has conducted his “election” under undeclared state of emergency with gagged press @ TV and Rights and Freedoms of Man and Citizen stipulated in articles 17.1,22.1,29.1,29.5,31, 56.1 of Russian Constitution suspended. B.Obama could easily outperform him if he had done the same. I wonder, are you that misinformed or do you serve the FSB?

by: Green
May 01, 2012 9:00 PM
Like it or not, you have to admit that Putin is among the most capable men on earth. Russian economy is so strong not because of the prices of oil and gases but as the result of Putin's effective management of the economy. Russians are lucid to have chosen him as President again. Even Obama cannot perform better than Putin.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs