Letter From the Editors: Oct. 23 - 29, 2017

Author: Matthew Larson

Russian 2018 Presidential Election: Do-Gooder Debutant vs. Demagogic Dinosaur?

Russian political analysts are fervently trying to decipher Ksenia Sobchak’s recently announced presidential bid. Is the 35-year-old daughter of Putin’s former patron getting marching orders from the Kremlin, or does she honestly and sincerely believe she can unite the opposition and challenge Russia’s long-time leader? The cards are clearly stacked against the self-styled "against all" candidate, and she knows it, explicitly stating that her goal is not to win the presidency but to be an outlet for popular discontent at the polls.

Dmitry Orlov says Sobchak has a lot going for her, including name recognition and social media resources. But that won’t galvanize hard-core conservatives who are put off by "Russia’s Paris Hilton" or die-hard oppositionists who decry her lack of a positive agenda. The only thing she stands to gain from the presidential campaign is a chance to reboot her own image, the analyst says.

Yevgenia Albats is a bit more cynical, believing Sobchak’s candidacy is a Kremlin ploy designed to distract attention from the genuine opposition, artificially broaden the political playing field and boost turnout, thus increasing the legitimacy of the election and its most likely winner - Putin. And turnout is perhaps one of the biggest question marks in the 2018 election, writes Aleksandr Morozov. Putin’s beneficiaries are increasingly worried about what path Putin might take Russia down in the next six years if reelected. The Kremlin’s risky policy moves in recent years have them concerned about the future well-being of their gains and their families.

Putin’s railings against the West at a recent Valdai International Discussion Club forum likely only reinforced those concerns. The bridges between Russia and the West are burning rapidly, and Putin does not seem eager to douse the flames. Russian Senator Konstantin Kosachov defends Putin’s harsh rhetoric, saying the West needs to be put ...

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