Judging by the media’s unabated promotion of his cult of personality, I’d have to agree with John Follett of the Sunday Herald that no one should rule out a political comeback to the presidency of Vladimir Putin.
Since he stepped down in May, a Soviet-style cult lionizing him as the “father of the nation” has steadily gathered steam, to the point where many ordinary Russians still regard him as president. Indeed, if an election were to held tomorrow, opinion polls show that Putin would win easily and that his popularity – the result of eight straight years of economic and geopolitical resurgence – has more than weathered his technical demotion. Before he gave up the highest office in the land, cloying songs had been penned in his honour, Russian women had professed their undying love for him, and vodka and tinned fish manufacturers had rushed to name their products after him. advertisement But his spin-doctors used to try – at least publicly – to keep a lid on excessive tributes in a bid to reinforce his image as a modest “one of us” figure. Now though, Putin, who has since become prime minister, is well placed to stage a stunning political comeback and serve another two presidential terms if he desires. If and when his less experienced successor Dmitry Medvedev steps down, that is. Medvedev, a long-time Putin subordinate, has struggled to emerge from his mentor’s shadow and is not, polls show, taken seriously by many ordinary Russians. His decision to send Russian tanks into Georgia in August boosted his image as a strong leader, a quality Russians respect, but was not game changing. Analysts say he has come to power at a difficult time when Russia’s booming petro-economy is beginning to be buffeted by the global financial crisis. That, they say, allows Putin to maintain the fiction that previous economic growth was down to his financial genius rather than oil-fuelled serendipity.