In current months, the well being of Russian President Vladimir Putin has been the topic of a lot hypothesis, with claims that he has most cancers, Parkinson’s, or has even survived an assassination try.
However to this point, no physician’s notice has been produced.
“He can keep in energy for 10 years or extra if he desires, it actually is dependent upon the circumstances,” political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya informed Al Jazeera. “I wouldn’t actually pay an excessive amount of consideration to the issue of his well being.”
Ought to the 69-year-old die or in any other case go away workplace all of a sudden, the Federation Council has 14 days to name presidential elections, and if it doesn’t, the Central Election Fee would.
Within the meantime, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin would grow to be performing president. Nevertheless, Mishustin isn’t seen as being significantly near Putin, nor a reputable candidate for any election.
As an alternative, Stanovaya believes Putin’s departure will go away an influence vacuum between enterprise pursuits, safety officers reminiscent of Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu and different factions of the elite.
“If one thing occurs to him tomorrow, I consider that the system would survive; It’s nonetheless sturdy,” mentioned Stanovaya.
“If one thing occurs tomorrow, I consider conservative forces, siloviki [security officials] will seize the political initiative and take over. But when one thing occurs to Putin later – one 12 months or extra – on this case, the dangers of destabilisation are a lot increased. We are going to see infighting and the siloviki would have a lot much less probability to maintain the initiative. Subsequent 12 months the scenario is perhaps extra completely different and troublesome.”
In response to stories in impartial Russian media retailers, members of the Russian elite had been stunned and felt anxious when Putin introduced the Ukraine invasion on February 24, declaring the “particular navy operation” a essential step.
A patriotic consolidation took maintain within the following weeks because the financial system held extra robustly than anticipated.
Nonetheless, Putin’s refusal to acknowledge a hyperlink between financial woes and sanctions is reportedly alienating business-minded officers, whereas others criticise him for not waging struggle actively sufficient.
In response to some stories, a couple of Kremlin insiders are quietly discussing who could come after Putin.
However Stanovaya mentioned such discuss isn’t severe.
“Really nobody is aware of [who will be next],” mentioned Stanovaya. “If somebody for instance begins writing Medvedev is the successor, it is perhaps seen as a political assault on Medvedev, as a result of nobody desires to seem as a successor, as a result of it makes your place extra susceptible.”
Safety professional Mark Galeotti informed Al Jazeera: “It’s truthfully exhausting to see Putin going quickly. For all of the tales of sickness, there’s no proof he’s critically sick, and given how disastrously the struggle has gone, I can’t see him retiring except he’s pressured to go by the folks round him.
“There are not any apparent successors – it wouldn’t be [wise] to look as when you’re auditioning for a place that isn’t vacant.”
Putin has been at Russia’s helm for greater than 20 years, main the nation from 2000 to 2008, and once more from 2012 to the current.
In between, Dmitry Medvedev held the presidency, though Putin, as prime minister, was extensively believed to carry true energy even in that interval.
Altogether, the 69-year-old politician, who in late February proclaimed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a essential “particular navy operation”, has matched Soviet chief Leonid Brezhnev’s 18 years in energy.
Should you embody Medvedev’s time in workplace, Putin dominated Russia the longest, beating Joseph Stalin’s time in energy.
His present time period is about to run out in 2024. Nevertheless in 2020, the structure modified, permitting him to run for 2 additional six-year phrases till 2036 – when he could be 86 years outdated.
In response to Stanovaya, if the financial system retains failing and public discontent grows, one other faction may try to seize the reins.
However journalist Farida Rustamova, who covers Russian politics and Kremlin intrigue, warns towards predictions.
“Within the case of the president’s demise, duties fall to the prime minister. Will Mishustin handle to carry onto energy? We’ve no manner of telling,” she informed Al Jazeera by telephone. “We will discuss this stuff within the summary, however on no account ought to we depend on these ideas as some form of forecast.
“It’s very troublesome to make predictions about authoritarian nations as a result of we don’t know what’s going to occur. There are not any different political forces in Russia we are able to discuss or what one or one other faction will do.”
She added that these against Putin can “solely fantasise.”
“This brainwashing in Russia has been occurring now from an early age. There can solely be reforms from the top-down as a result of Putin’s system has existed for too lengthy, it’s taught a whole era for 20 years already,” she mentioned.
The present opposition in Russia is unlikely to win any post-Putin election, as the federal government has chipped away at any options over the previous 20 years.
Outdoors of Putin’s United Russia Social gathering, the second-strongest bloc are the Communists, whose chief Gennady Zyuganov is taken into account “systemic opposition” to supply the phantasm of a plural democracy – the Communist Social gathering solely not often goes towards Putin.
Probably the most well-known opposition determine, a minimum of exterior of Russia, is Alexey Navalny, who was handed 9 years for embezzlement in March.
However even when he had been free, his precise reputation amongst Russians is modest.
Yevgeny Roizman, one other seen opposition determine who was as soon as the favored mayor of Yekaterinburg, was just lately arrested on costs of discrediting the armed forces, which is punishable by three years’ imprisonment.
Maybe a clue to Russia’s future could also be in Uzbekistan, one other ex-Soviet republic that was dominated by former Soviet official, Islam Karimov, from independence in 1991, till his demise in 2016.
Throughout that point, Karimov prolonged his time in energy via elections, referendums and constitutional reforms deemed by many as rigged.
His household grew richer and dissent was suppressed.
After his demise, the media and financial system loved extra freedom and dozens of political prisoners had been launched throughout a interval of reform, however in any other case most of the similar officers stay in energy and the construction of presidency stays unchanged.
Nonetheless, specialists say there’s hope for a extra peaceable Russia, even when the possibilities for better democracy are slim.
“It’s unlikely it might be anybody extra hawkish [after Putin], however nor ought to we anticipate a liberal,” mentioned Galeotti.
“The very best we are able to hope for is a practical kleptocrat who appreciates that the struggle is unhealthy for enterprise and thus would have very self-interested causes to cut back the present confrontation. At current, males like Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin or Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin may match that mould, however that’s to not say they’re ever essentially prone to rise to energy.”
Stanovaya believes that the “siloviki” may turn into far more pragmatic.
“Putin is admittedly obsessed together with his historic mission, he’s very emotional about Ukraine,” she mentioned.
“It is perhaps simpler for the West to take care of siloviki as a result of their ambitions are decrease. Even when Russia turns into much more anti-Western, there could also be extra room in coping with Russia.”
Final 12 months, Putin informed Russians: “A time will come when, I hope, I can say that such and such an individual is worthy in my view of main such a beautiful nation like Russia, our homeland.”
Evidently, that point has not come but.