Interview with Dmitry Babich

Dmitry Babich, a political analyst for the Russian Profile magazine, spoke to Russia Today on Viktor Zubkov's nomination as a candidate for Prime Minister.

“Certainly he is not the person everyone expected. It's just like when Mr Fradkov was appointed. Nobody expected the former minister of foreign economic relations to become a PM,” he said.

Babich says there are two possibilities: “either Mr Zubkov for some reason is the Mr X that we've been expecting all these months as successor. Alternatively, Mr Fradkov got really tired of being pushed around over his controversies with Putin and Gref and decided to resign. Technically this can't be ruled out.”

The political analyst for Russian Profile also emphasised that “when Putin became Prime Minister in the summer of 1999 nobody knew him and at the very beginning he was received pretty badly. He came as a complete surprise. Very often people are not very happy about unexpected events. Newspapers wrote that there was an eclipse and there was a joke that Mr Yeltsin was somehow under the influence of the eclipse.”

Mr Babich added that surprise appointments by the President are nothing new: “I'm happy that the Western press will not be able to spin on Ivanov's appointment because you can imagine what would have happened if Ivanov was appointed. As usual the President has surprised everyone and it was not the first surprise we've had from him. For instance, when Mr Serdyukov replaced Ivanov as Defence Minister,” he said.

“Russian politics continues as it used to in the past”, he added. "The person who was expected to become something does not become something and the person who is not expected to become something suddenly gets all kinds of positions.

“This is unfortunately the way Russian politics is conducted, even now. It's not that someone is campaigning from the grassroots and getting a job. It's someone being appointed because that person's qualities fit the situation. In general, Russian politics is very technocratic. Russia is basically ruled as a big company. They find a good candidate for a job, this person is hand-picked and then he carries out a job. That's the way Putin was basically first appointed by Yeltsin. And it proved to be a success. Hopefully this case is going to be a success too,” Babich believes.

“Mr Zubkov will be a caretaker PM”, he said, “and I hope that during the presidential election campaign we are going to see the faces that are more familiar to the voters. In a politically mature country people who are more or less known participate in elections. Russia needs to become more predictable. It was going that way and I'd hope next few months would not disappoint us.”

“The fundamental scenario of the parliamentary elections is not going to be changed because of the resignation. Mr Fradkov was not a political figure like Viktor Chernomyrdin – a backbone of the party of power in the 1990s. Basically we are going to see the same groups facing each other during the parliamentary elections and we still do not know what will happen during the presidential election. I hope Russia is mature enough to go through all that without losses,” he concluded.