Applebaum: It’s the Selection Process, Comrade

Columnist Anne Applebaum has a new piece out on the appointment of Viktor Zubkov:

All of which goes a long way to confirm something I’ve maintained for some time: The identity of the next president of Russia doesn’t actually matter. Though a lot of analytical effort has already been wasted on careful pre-electoral scrutiny of the potential candidates, their opinions, views, alleged pragmatism, or alleged chauvinism are much less important than the nature of the coming presidential selection process itself. If Zubkov (or someone else) becomes president following an orchestrated media campaign, falsified elections, and with Putin hovering constantly in the background, we’ll know he really is a place-holder. If Zubkov (or someone else) manages to garner some genuine support, both among voters and within the Kremlin, we’ll know to take his views seriously. If Putin remains president—well, we’ll know what that means too. Already, the fact that no one outside the Kremlin’s inner sanctum has any idea what the succession will look like is a bad sign. It’s hard to talk about “rule of law” in a country where power changes hands in such a thoroughly arbitrary manner.