Post-Cold War Russia has never been considered a paragon of democracy or political freedom. From bloody suppression in Chechnya to the ultra-rich oligarchs that make the economy spin, aspects of Russia and its government have always raised eyebrows in the international community. Yet even so, the Russian government – up to this point — has made a decent effort in feigning that it was a functioning democracy.
Last week, any semblance of this charade simply imploded. In a move that would put even Bloomberg to shame, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced he would once again seek the Russian presidency. Perhaps the most unsettling thing about his all but certain return is that it is completely unsurprising.
Medvedev’s presidency at times could be regarded as substantively different than Putin’s reign. The cool-headed Medvedev appeared to be taking a less conservative approach than his predecessors to spearhead “a drive to modernize Russia.” While some argued that Medvedev was cherry-picked to sit meekly on the sidelines as Putin continued to pull the strings via his formally less powerful role as Prime Minister, others countered that Russia had truly changed. Yet in the light of Putin’s announcement, Medvedev’s streak of independence appears to be only a mere gimmick laying the foundation for an even more Putin-dominated era in Russian politics.
In the end, the most blatant sign that nothing has really changed in Russia is the announcement that Russian presidential terms will now be increased from four years to six years, allowing Putin to maintain his grasp on power until 2024.
Clearly nobody in the Kremlin is even interested in keeping up appearances now.