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Although He Is Sure to Win, Putin Fights Charge of Stagnation

Despite a predetermined outcome in his favor, Vladimir Putin is running hard to preserve his legitimacy.
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 10/31/2011, 5:33 AM

One would be justified in wondering, what makes Vladimir Putin feel he has to campaign?

The opponents of his United Russia party and the added popular front are harassed even when they only want to make fun of Putin and compare him to Dracula.

Only a tame or a discredited opposition like the Communists is permitted to run.

The state media is stacked in favor of Putin and company, he still commands 68% popularity and if worse comes to worst, the results can be falsified.

One explanation is that even in the days of Soviet Russia when there was only one party election campaigns were serious business.

Putin is peeved by critics who complain that he is the second coming of Leonid Brezhnev and will lead the country into stagnation. In addition to the old but ineffectual liberal opposition, Putin must now contend with "constructive" liberals who believed that President Dimitry Medvedev was providing a genuine progressive alternative for Russia.

Now they have been told that already in 2008, Putin and Medvedev hatched a plan where Medvedev would keep Putin's Kremlin seat warm till his patron could return to the Kremlin in the 2012 elections.

While he disparages his critics both at home and abroad, Putin still finds it necessary to explain why he is coming back to the Kremlin. He is there to ensure political stability and offer himself as just the right alternative between the meltdown of the 1990s and a reversion to the Soviet Union. “Two or three missteps would be enough to bring all that back upon us so fast we would not even see it coming,” he said in comments broadcast late on Monday night. “Everything is hanging by a thread, in politics and the economy.”

If critics were given real access to the media, they could well ask how it could be that after nearly a decade of Putin-ism, Russia is still in the same state.

In any case, Putin is marketing himself as the best thing the Russians have ever had: "I somehow can’t remember that ... the postwar Soviet leaders worked as intensively as I do. They did not know what to do because of their physical capabilities or misunderstandings.”

Putin is also making good use of the economic crisis in the West. On the one hand he assures Russian citizens that the government has salted away enough cash resources to tide them over in an economic downturn.

The United States should stick to their own business “I can tell these critics — and they are clearly unscrupulous critics: you know what, mind your own business,” he said. “Fight growing inflation, growing state debt, and obesity. Get to work,”

As to the realistic prospect that he will end up serving four terms as president till the year 2024, Putin and his spin doctors have a model on hand -- Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Like Roosevelt, Putin claims that he finds himself with a country "in complicated, difficult conditions." And he is there to provide stability. Presumably Putin does not expect to die in office like Roosevelt.