Letter From the Editors: April 24 - 30, 2017

Author: Xenia Grushetsky

‘Lord, What Fools These Mortals Be’ - Understanding the Inner Workings of the Kremlin and the French Election

While the French presidential election has only been through its first round of voting, and the Russian presidential election is a year away, some interesting parallels are already emerging between the two. The starkest difference is of course the number of candidates: The French election featured four leading candidates who "were virtually neck and neck in the polls," making any predictions as to who will make it into the final round too close to call. Russia essentially has one candidate - Putin. And even he has yet to officially announce his bid, says Prof. Valery Solovei in an interview with The New Times. This ambiguity is feeding a behind-the-scenes power struggle within the elite: "If the candidate is Putin, there’s one agenda. If there’s a different candidate, the agenda is entirely different. It’s assumed right now that Putin is almost sure to run. Still, there’s a certain measure of uncertainty."

According to Solovei, the Russian elite are divided into two camps - the security clan and the technocrat clan. While the security clan has some old faces like Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin, the technocrats have fresh blood, as exemplified by Anton Vaino, the new presidential chief of staff (who replaced another political doyen, Sergei Ivanov) and Sergei Kiriyenko, the Kremlin’s new domestic policy chief. However, according to the expert, these newcomers share a major flaw: Neither one has an independent agenda.

Meanwhile, the masses are clearly getting restless (as the March 26 rallies have shown), and the same old TV propaganda just isn’t cutting it anymore. Even corruption - an issue that official television channels have consistently relied upon to mobilize the public - isn’t doing the trick, writes Tatyana Stanovaya. According to her, the wave of high-profile arrests that continues to this day (remember ...

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