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Putin Blues by Western media

While Western officials have cautiously left the final choice of Russia’s leader to the people of Russia, Western media have been speculating what kind of change Vladimir Putin would bring if he indeed wins the upcoming presidential poll.

Saturday put an end to the main intrigue concerning the approaching parliamentary and presidential elections in Russia, as the political party holding two-thirds in Russia’s current parliament announced their candidates for president and prime minister respectively.

As the chairman of United Russia’s Supreme Council confirmed in Sunday’s media conference, their parliamentary list will be headed by the incumbent president, Dmitry Medvedev, while the current prime minister, Vladimir Putin, will run for the presidency.

The subdued reaction which followed from Western officials revealed polite indifference to who will lead the country after March 2012, with Germany referring to the news as “Russia’s internal affairs” and the USA willing to continue “the reset” regardless of who will appeal to the Russian people.

But the Financial Times newspaper believes that Putin’s presidential comeback could mar relations with Washington, as Russia and the USA pushed “the reset” button mostly “due to a good personal relationship between Mr. Medvedev and US President Barack Obama.

This stance has already been refuted by Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, who said on Sunday that such “claims reveal that many Western politicians do not understand what is happening in Russia.”

Overall, the greatest surprise expressed by the Western press over the announcement comes from the news having been made public so early. The candidacy was quite predictable, while President Medvedev’s role is played down to a mere “placeholder,” reads the Deutsche Welle website.

Four years ago, [Putin] couldn't run again for president because of term limit rules. But, he needed a formal placeholder who enabled him to keep his hand firmly in politics. Putin assigned this role to Medvedev,” added Deutsche Welle.

Though the formal elections have not yet taken place, in the view of many outlets Vladimir Putin has already won not one, but two consecutive terms. In this case, Putin would stay in power till he is 72.

Now he can come back, if he chooses, until 2024. This would make him Russia’s longest-serving ruler,” says the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Many of the world’s press have descended into gloom, questioning the prospects for democracy and civil society in Russia. The Observer newspaper editors, their hearts heavy with black days to come, suggest Russia might be “slipping from democracy back towards autocracy.

At least financial markets could gain something from this Groundhog Day in Russia’s politics.  The Moscow Times, citing “five reasons for investors to cheer Putin's return”, actually recommends grasping the possibility of uncertainty being over, with some stability lying ahead.

Hope is growing for further improvement in the investment climate,” reads the paper. “No matter where Medvedev lands, investors can hope that he will be in a position to push ahead with the modernization and anti-corruption agenda that he has made the hallmark of his presidency.

But The Financial Times argues the benefits would spread only in the short term.