Vladimir Putin perfected the art of indirect response in his campaign to secure a third Kremlin term amid mounting public displeasure with his regime and its monopoly on power. While four other candidates battled over their views in televised debates during January and February, Putin avoided any sort of direct discussion of the political agenda he will follow in the six years he is expected to serve as president after March 4. (This note was penned on February 6.)
Instead of participating in pre-election debates, which he said were too time consuming for a busy statesman like himself, Putin engaged with his critics by penning wordy articles in several leading papers. Meant to serve as explanations of his platform, the verbose pieces confused many readers by offering few concrete proposals.
By way of challenging the street protests against his rule, which numbered up to 100 thousand in Moscow, Putin welcomed the rallies in favor of his regime, the biggest of which gathered tens of thousands at Moscow’s Poklonnaya Gora. The difference was, of course, that the pro-Putin rallies forced employees of various state companies to attend, busing them to the rally, often for a fee or under a risk of firing. While many protested such state pressure in the newspapers, the state television channels brandished the demonstrations as proof of popular support for Russia’s leader of 12 years, saying 139 thousand people “supported the ruling regime and the stable development of the country.” (Channel One).
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