Alternate theories on how Putin can retain power after his second term expires


Everybody has their own pet theory on how Vladimir Putin can retain power after the end of his second official term. I earlier wrote of one such theory: Change the constitution to permit a third term. In the intervening months, other theories have been put forth. Each one chips away at a different part of the statement that "the president can be elected to at most two consecutive terms":

  • Attack the word the president: Transfer all the powers of the presidency to the prime minister, then have Putin be the next prime minister. There is no limit on how many terms someone can serve as prime minister.
  • Attack the word elected: Since the prime minister is first in line should the president step down, have Putin become the next prime minister and install a crony as president. When the president resigns on his first day, Putin becomes president without being elected.
  • Attack the word two by changing the constitution, as noted already.
  • Attack the word consecutive: Similar to the attack on the word elected, and then point out that since there was an intervening president, Putin's next two terms will not be consecutive with the first two.

There's also another method that merely plays by a different set of rules: Install a crony as president and pull the strings from backstage.

As I noted in my earlier entry, I'm much more fascinated by the machinery being put into motion to arrange for Putin to retain power than in whether he actually does.

On an unrelated note, Mark MacKinnon explains the magic phrase to use as a foreigner when pulled over arbitrarily by the police.

Comments (31)
  1. Ollie Riches says:

    If only Putin had a son called something like ‘Vladimir W Putin’ then he could be elected president of course there is the chance he might want to be his own man when elected but that is unlikely…

  2. andy says:

    Actually his wife, Lyudmilla Putin, has been proposed as such a "crony": http://www.kommersant.com/p826520/r_527/Putin_Lyudmila_President_Vladivostok/ .

  3. Mark says:

    You missed one.  Declare a national emergency stating that terrorists are targetting the elections so they must be delayed.

    On a related note, conspiracy theorists and even some sane people have been arguing that events during our president’s administration suggest that this stunt is being considered at home.  It’s one of those things that you don’t think could happen, but almost weekly something new happens on the political front that sends chills down your spine.

    Why did I point out this option for Putin or note this theory about the Bush administration?  Because your post was timely and because outgoing Homeland Security Adviser Frances Fragos Townsend has just publicly stated that Al Qaeda may target the 2008 elections.  As with ALL terror alerts that have mysteriously cropped up when the administration and Republican party was seeing it’s position challenged or popularity wane, there is no "specific information."

    We ALL know that Al Qaeda would never target elections because they want Bush out of office more than the worst Bush basher.  It’s time for America to be afraid.  Very afraid. Our worst fear should be our very leaders.

  4. John says:

    Why go through the trouble?  He could just stay in office and nobody would do anything about it; no need to try to work out technicalities or anything.

    It’s kind of like our current administration.  People moan and complain about this and that, but at the end of the day nobody is holding anyone accountable so nothing ever changes.  What’s the point of having checks and balances if nobody uses them?

  5. Alex says:

    One more: resign now to be re-elected for the next 2 consecutive terms.

  6. Scott says:

    "Actually his wife, Lyudmilla Putin, has been proposed as such a "crony":"

    It’s alleged this is why the last president of Argentina didn’t run for election, despite being very popular, and instead his wife ran (and won).  The idea is that they alternate terms, and thus rule for 16 years, rather than the 2 4-year terms that is the normal limit.

  7. Andy says:

    The Russian Orthodox Church can restore the Monarchy and declare Putin the new Czar of Russia. No matter how he does it, having Putin stay in power may piss off a lot of neocons, but it would certainly be the best thing for Russia and probably the world as a whole. A strong Russia can put the brakes on the agressive, arrogant and criminal US foreign policy. Without a strong Russia there are really no checks and balances on the US.

  8. richard says:

    It all boils down to trying to parse the letter of the law in a manner it was not intended – like Windows programmers who do things not in keeping with the Windows programming spirit because they can. Since, obviously, if they weren’t allowed to, then they shouldn’t be able to do it.

  9. Too-doo-loo says:

    <i>On an unrelated note, Mark MacKinnon explains the magic phrase to use as a foreigner when pulled over arbitrarily by the police.</i>

    So that person first bribed an official and then mounted a high horse to deliver an ironical oration on how corrupt these officials are. Isn’t that a bit inconsequential?

  10. Cooney says:

    Without a strong Russia there are really no checks and balances on the US.

    And I suppose it gives us an enemy to hate.

  11. Cody says:

    And I suppose it gives us an enemy to hate.

    What about Iran, China, Cuba and North Korea?  I thought we were pretty adversarial with them as well.

  12. Morten says:

    Nah, they’re no fun. Too small, too backward, too strange. Or in the case of China, too scary. All your base are belong to us…

  13. Vyacheslav Lanovets says:

    According to russian laws it is too late to change constitution, Putin had plenty of time, so it would be silly to do it now.

  14. Brian says:

    The sentence “the president can be elected to at most two consecutive terms” can be interpreted in multiple ways. It either says you can only have a total maximum of two terms (mandated to be consecutive), or multiple [1,2] terms.

    What does it mean?

    [Don’t look at me; I can’t read Russian. The English sites I’ve seen interpret it the second way. -Raymond]
  15. Bourdo says:

    >There’s also another method that merely plays by a different set of rules: Install a crony as president and pull the strings from backstage.

    Hmmm. It reminds me something. Wasn’t similar thing happen to USA in Y2K? ;-)

    I think this scenario is unlikey. Putin himself started as a "puppet" of Boris Yeltsin. And he quickly found out how to pull strings backwards. As result, "fat cats", who played Boris like violin, stopped bothering him and bursted in all directions. Mostly to England and Israel. Some – to Siberia (Khodorkovsky).

    All in all, president is a "puppet" hard to play with. And Putin should understand it as nobody else.

  16. Mark Sowul says:

    "So that person first bribed an official and then mounted a high horse to deliver an ironical oration on how corrupt these officials are. Isn’t that a bit inconsequential?"

    You miss the point which is that they are corrupt and were only looking for a bribe anyway.

    They checked my documents one time, and made off with my cellphone when they decided to "search me for drugs" too.  (http://marksowul.blogspot.com/2007/07/72007-who-watches-watchers.html).  The next day they hauled off a classmate to the police station for an hour or so because he had merely a copy of his papers (which was advised to avoid theft).  They let him go when it was clear he wasn’t going to give them anything.

    Part of the problem is that they’re so low-paid that they it’s very tempting to abuse their power to make up for it.  There was a skit on Nasha Russia with "the cop who wouldn’t take any bribes" and thus his family was starving.

  17. Gazpacho says:

    I distinctly read "Attack of the Word President". As if I entered some alternate universe where Ed Wood produced Schoolhouse Rock.

  18. Matthew says:

    I am not sure about Russia, but in Indonesia to join the police you have to pay about $3000. This is a bribe to the other police to give you a job, nothing more.

    Of course once you have the job you will then make money from traffic stops, etc.

    It’s the same for many government roles – passport office workers pay for their jobs, because of the money they can earn from bribes.

    I know a nurse whose mother had to pay the hospital staff a bribe (having passed the test) of several hundred dollars. The monthly pay is only $40.

  19. matthew says:

    Bribery can be handy, if you are wise to it. For instance, there was a rule that you to hold a return ticket on visiting Indonesia. On one occasion, I visited, and did not have one, because I didn’t know when I was going back. I was prepared to be shook down pretty big.

    As I went through immigration I was told to go to their office. They told me I would need to pay a $15 fine.

    I couldn’t help laughing afterwards, as I was delighted to get out so cheaply. They even escorted me through immigration to the cash machine, and back again.

    Same applies, I’m told, if you’re ever caught/stitched up on drugs charges in these countries – offer a sizeable bribe as quickly as possible. For hard drugs I guess you would be looking at couple of tens of thousands.

    Of course bribery is a bad thing, and corruption screws up these countries, eats up aid and development budgets, etc.

    But it can be nice as a Westerner, to be able to grease the wheels without a second thought. It contributes to the ‘imperialist on tour’ mentality ;-).

  20. Vyacheslav Egorov says:

    I came from work, turned my TV on and whom I saw? Putin! I tried switching channels… No luck. Either Putin or soap operas. In fact all news programs turned into soap operas with one leading actor: Vladimir Putin…

    I turned off TV and opened my Google Reader and what I saw? Putin was already there, in your blog where I never expected to see him!

    In fact Putin recently announced that he will run for State Duma deputy as a leader of Edinaya Rossiya (United Russia) election list(*).  

    I really do not know whether he is a real ruler of Russia or only a puppet dancing on behalf of his true masters. It does not matter for us mortal citizens.

    (*) I don’t know how to translate his statement in English correctly. He said something like "I will be number one in the election list of United Russia".

  21. Alex Cohn says:

    Too-doo-loo: apparently, "the Russian-speaker in the crowd" knew exactly what was awaiting John at the police station, and the policemen knew that he knew (and if you skipped the story of Kirill Formanchuk, you might not know).

    matthew: note that a fee to take an official position, even when such position was granted by His Majesty personally, was the way of life in European monarchies as late as XVII century. Consider this as an optimistic prognosis for Indonesia.

  22. arun.philip says:

    Putin needs tips from Musharraf.

  23. president still remains says:

    Bill Gates told everyone in 2005 he should leave the company after 2 years (>2 years ago). Why hasn’t he left already?

  24. Igor Levicki says:

    @matthew:

    If you ever decide to come to Serbia let me know in advance so I can join the police force, intercept you and beat you to the death, don’t worry, I’ll think of some stupid excuse to cover myself. Western scum, why don’t you pull bribes in your own corrupted country!

  25. steveg says:

    @matthew caught/stitched up on drugs charges in these countries – offer a sizeable bribe as quickly as possible. For hard drugs I guess you would be looking at couple of tens of thousands.

    Um… hard drugs… how stupid do you have to be to do those in some countries? Always take your hard drugs in countries without the death penalty. Or better yet… nah, I’ll just sound like a right-wing anti-drug loon.

    Putin stay in power may piss off a lot of neocons, but it would certainly be the best thing for Russia and probably the world as a whole.

    You. Cannot. Be. Serious.

    Putin is singlehandly… oh, I just can’t be bothered. He is not good for Russia or the world. Who needs democracy or accountability? A return to Cold War paranoia is NOT good for the world. Sure, let’s spend MORE money on the military, let’s have another Cuban missile standoff, bet let’s do it properly this time…

    Grrr!

  26. Mark Sowul says:

    Matthew, try the hard drugs bribe in Singapore.  Let us know how that goes.  

    "Singapore’s drug laws are among the world’s harshest. Anyone aged 18 or over convicted of carrying more than 15 grams of heroin faces mandatory execution by hanging."

    http://edition.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/asiapcf/01/15/singapore.executions.reut/

  27. Anon says:

    Dynasties can avoid term limits

    America might end up with

    George HW Bush

    Bill Clinton

    George W Bush

    Hilary Clinton

    Jeb Bush

    Chelsea Clinton

    One of the Bush twins

    and so on. You could find someone who was politically part of the ruling family but with a different surname if there was no heir apparent.

    Quite quickly this would become very entrenched. E.g. all the fundraising efforts from the last but one administration could be kept warm while the rival family was in power and reused once their term limit was close to expiring or they looked like they would lose.

  28. Ruslan says:

    What a bullshit.

    PS You have no idea guy what are you writing about. I remember you wrote somewhen about Putin already being on his 3rd term, but you quiclky deleted the post, I guess after people explained you what a bullshit you had written. Better write about what you have an idea of, eg programming.

    [I not only didn’t delete my previous article, I even linked to it in this article. So let’s agree that neither of us have any idea what we’re writing about. Then again, I never claimed to be an expert on Russian politics. I just find it funny. And one shouldn’t let the truth get in the way of a good joke. -Raymond]
  29. Vyacheslav Lanovets says:

    In Russia, Moscow to become a policemen who is in charge of traffic control (inluding fines) you may need to pay $3000-$4000.

    The bribe for driving licence in Moscow is very small: about $400. So poorly educated drivers provide additional "income" for the police.

  30. Vladimir says:

    Looks like he’ll go the "prime minister" way. He’s already joined his own party, "United Russia", to be elected as a deputy on the forthcoming deputies elections. He’ll be working then both as president and as deputy till the next presidential elections. I dont know if it’s even possible by the current constitution, but I guess that’s no problem for him ;)

    Well, it’s not that bad actually. To put it simply, western views on the democracy is that the democracy is when the country is ruled by all the citizens of that country. But that didn’t work for us. Such a democracy ended up to be just an anarchy, because "everybody" turned out to be "nobody" for us. Now we have, to some extent, a ruler, and he’s not that bad as a ruler after all. It’s better than to have a 90-s-style democracy where everything was collapsing.

Comments are closed.