A Signal… There Will Be A Successor
Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin (b. October 7, 1952) had taken charge as the President of Russia in 2000 for the first time. Still, he is currently serving his zero term because of a Law that nullified his three previous terms and the current one as President! Although the Russian Strongman is eager to serve another term, there are some issues, as he approaches 70. According to sources close to the Kremlin, General Sergey Kuzhugetovich Shoigu (b. May 21, 1955) of the Russian Army may be President Putin’s successor.
It may be noted that Parliamentarian Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman to fly to space in 1963, tabled a Bill in the Lower House of the Parliament in this regard in 2020. The House adopted the Bill in March 2020, allowing Putin to run for two six-year terms in 2024 and 2030. Later, Tereshkova said: “Simple folks simply asked me to submit the Bill to the State Duma, dominated by Putin loyalists.” At that time, Opposition Leader and Anti-Corruption Crusader Alexey Navalny warned his countrymen, saying: “’We don’t accept’ must be our only words about the nullification.” Later, he managed to survive a nerve agent poisoning allegedly orchestrated by President Putin, and was sentenced to two and a half years in jail in February 2021.
In December 2020, President Putin reportedly said that he was yet to decide whether to run in 2024. However, he has changed his mind, and is pondering the idea of a first (technically fifth) term. As the Russians are not sure about his next term, they assume that General Shoigu shall replace the current president. Interestingly, the Pro-Kremlin observers have refused to name his potential successors. “Of course, I write about them in classified documents, and many do, but to publicly name them is to pay them lip service,” said Analyst and Head of the Moscow-based think-tank Centre of Political Information Alexey Mukhin. He also said that the Kremlin would make the list of potential successors public only after Putin’s retirement or demise “It’s not about Putin, it’s about the people who are interested in keeping the list of these names until Hour X,” stressed Mukhin.
Earlier in 2019, Opposition Activist Sergei Biziukin (b. January 13, 1982) was forced to leave Russia after trying to run for president. Biziukin recently stated: “Putin is suspicious and secretive. Even if he chose someone as a successor, he won’t reveal it ahead of time, although I doubt that he considers letting the power go while he’s alive. And, dictators rarely care about what happens next.” In recent years, the Russian President has made serious attempts to eliminate his opponents. Apart from Navalny and Biziukin, Garry Kasparov – the former chess champion-turned-protest leader, was also forced to leave the country in 2013.
In such a scenario, it is quite obvious that President Putin would choose a Kremlin loyalist as his successor. One of them is Putin’s former First Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov (b. December 8, 1957). Kasyanov had joined hands with Liberal Democrat Boris Nemtsov. However, he retired from Politics after Nemtsov’s contract-style killing in 2015.
Meanwhile, the Russian political observers believe that Putin would not choose his longtime subordinate and former President Dmitri Medvedev as his successor. As far as Opposition leaders are concerned, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, who had taken part in every Presidential Campaign since 1996, could not become President because of his famously uncharismatic personality. Furthermore, he is 77. Ultra-nationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky (75), too, is not an ideal person due to his outlandish populism and eccentricity. In Russia, Zhirinovsky is widely considered as a political clown who lures disgruntled Rightists and threatens the West. Leader of the A Just Russia Party Sergey Mironov (69) ran for president twice, but the former Geologist, who had promised to nationalise the Oil Industry and make corruption equal to treason, finished last both times.
These people have made it easier for General Shoigu, a hawkish Buddhist, to become an ideal successor of President Putin. Currently, he is the second-most popular politician after Putin. Although Shoigu’s first name is quintessentially Russian, he hails from Tuva, an impoverished Province of Turkic-speaking Buddhists. The Province, which shares border with northwestern China, has some of Russia’s highest murder and suicide rates. A section of Tuvan intellectuals considers the General a reincarnation of Subedei, a Mongol General whose Army had laid waste to what is now Russia and Ukraine 800 years ago.
General Shoigu started his career in the early 1990s, as he headed the Emergencies Ministry. He made the Ministry a highly effective, militarised structure even before Putin became the President. He used to be considered a Liberal Democrat before taking over the charge of the Defence Ministry in 2012. General Shoigu spearheaded the Kremlin’s biggest breakthroughs: Crimea’s Annexation, and the saving of the Government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Ahead of the September 19 Parliamentary Poll, President Putin appointed him as the poster boy of the ruling United Russia Party.
Nikolay Mitrokhin, a Researcher with Germany’s Bremen University, said: “He has serious chances, much higher than anyone else for now.”
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