Putin will be the power behind President Medvedev’s throne
ZAA NKWETA, PRESENTER: As Russia prepares to go to the polls to elect a new president on March 2, candidates continue to campaign. Among the candidates is Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party. He is openly critical of the Kremlin, but his party votes consistently to support Kremlin initiatives. This is Zhirinovsky’s fourth run for the presidency. Gennady Zyuganov, the head of the Communist Party, is another perennial candidate. Under Putin, Zyuganov has tempered his criticism in what as regarded as a political compromise that permits his party to hold onto their few remaining seats in Parliament. Andrey Bogdanov is the leader of a small democratic party. He is a pro-European democrat and is running with the implicit blessing of the Kremlin. Polls suggest that he has little chance of winning, but his presence blunts criticism from the West that Russia has excluded opposition candidates. Analyst Masha Lipman, at the Moscow Carnegie Center, explains why in addition to Zhirinovsky and Zyuganov that Bogdanov is important.
MASHA LIPMAN, CARNEGIE MOSCOW CENTER, ANALYST: Should they want to step down and leave the scene just to the pro-Kremlin candidate and a tiny unknown Mr. Bogdanov, whose popularity is under one percent? I think the Kremlin would say, no, we don’t want you to do this, because then the campaign would look even more of a farce than it does today.
The leading candidate is First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. An experienced politician and bureaucrat, he is Putin’s endorsed successor. Polls indicate that he is most likely to win, with more than 70 percent of the vote. Medvedev refuses to participate in televised debates, but gets far more air- time because Kremlin-controlled television shows his daily activities at length.
LIPMAN: He is becoming Russia’s president without having to actually compete with anybody else, without having to prove his point, to make his argument, to put together his position on burning issues.
VLADIMIR RHIZHKOV, FORMER LIBERAL MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: I was schoolboy in Soviet times, but I remember Soviet elections when the only candidate was in the ballots. Now we have the same. Practically, it’s only one candidate, Mr. Medvedev, and imitation of competition.
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The question many observers are asking is: will Medvedev be his own man, or merely Putin’s puppet?
LIPMAN: Medvedev knows for sure that he owes his nomination, he owes his popularity, he owes his future presidency to one man, and the man is President Putin.
Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.