There’s a great piece running in the Financial Times today on one of the most shadowy and interesting figures in Russian politics, the ideologist and gray cardinal Vladislav Surkov. I especially thought that the comparison with Karl Rove was quite sharp – the Bush administration pulled the sleight of hand on values to get poorer Americans to vote against their own economic interests, while the Putin-Medvedev diarchy have used Surkov to convince Russians that they aren’t mature enough to handle the burdensome responsibilities of pluralistic democracy.
In addition, the article notes that soon Surkov and Michael McFaul will have a chance to duke it out at the US Russia Presidential Commission, established as part of the “reset” in relations. Don’t expect fireworks – neither McFaul nor Surkov are reading from the 2007 script any longer.
Under Mr Putin, managed deftly by Mr Surkov, politics in Russia has become akin to watching a Hollywood film: lots of suspense, but the ending is never really in doubt. Parliament has been brought to heel, political parties are mainly artificial creations, and the airwaves are full of patriotic messages, delivered by hand-picked Kremlin-backed announcers.
Politicians care deeply about their popularity ratings, though they never have to face a real election – all such contests are decided behind the scenes in smoke-filled rooms.
Thoughpolitical competition seems to be increasing between Mr Putin and MrMedvedev as each seeks to jockey for the 2012 election, jaded Kremlinwatchers are unsure if they are seeing just another staged politicalshow. Mr Putin is the clear favourite and the 2012 presidency is seenas his for taking. (…)
Gleb Pavlovsky, head of the foundation for effective politics, whichworks for the Kremlin, (and therefore Mr Surkov) says: “Surkov ispersonally very much involved in the running of the domestic politicalsystem, so much so that if he were to move, this could destabilise thesystem. It is really his creation.”