Discussion “Russia's 2018 election and what to expect from Putin 4.0”

On January 11th EESC held a discussion “Russia's 2018 election and what to expect from Putin 4.0”, featuring Mr Konstantin von Eggert, a Russian journalist and political commentator currently affiliated with Russian television station Dozhd and German Deutsche Welle, also a member of the Chatham House, Mr Brian Whitmore, a senior Russia analyst for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and author of The Power Vertical Blog, The Power Vertical Podcast, the Daily Vertical, and the Morning Vertical, all of which focus on Russian affairs, and Dr Vilius Ivanauskas, Senior Policy Analyst at EESC, and author of the EESC book “Scenarios of Russia’s Development: the Implications for Lithuanian and Regional Security” (available here). Discussion was moderated by Ms Dovilė Šukytė, Acting Director of EESC. During the event, the upcoming presidential election in Russia, the main actors in Putin’s Russia and how the existing system could evolve during the next few years were discussed.

Almost no one doubts that Vladimir Putin will win this year’s presidential election. In a same way, many agree that it will be his last term in the office. Although it is too early to discuss what awaits Russia after Putin, it is widely agreed that a more unified and numerous non-systemic opposition is essential for fundamental changes to take place in Russia.

It was noted that elections in Russia are only a tool for legitimization of the existing regime and sustaining its status quo. Therefore, elections should be seen not as cases of democratic remains in Russian political system, but as rituals of legitimization, especially for the youth, who seek changes. This young generation spent their entire life under Putin’s rule, so it is no wonder that opposition leader Alexey Navalny with his anti-corruption agenda and innovative ideas manages to mobilize masses of young people for protests across all Russia.

One of the conclusions was that notwithstanding competing clans and security forces around Putin, he remains the strongest actor within the system. Putin will have a strong voice when naming his successor, although he might lose influence after the transition, which will also result into an increased instability in Russia.