Looking back at the 2006-07 political season

As the political season drew to a close, its results were apparent: failure for the Other Russia opposition coalition, foreign policy success for President Putin, increasing confidence for the United Russia party, and ongoing suspense about the successor. Autumn will bring further developments.

Most political analysts agree that the 2006-07 political season is over. Some say it ended in triumph. There are several reasons for that.

First: the Other Russia movement, in opposition to the Kremlin, weakened drastically. It failed to form a common front with the parties known as “the opposition within the system.” And one of the Other Russia’s leading figures, former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov, quit the movement. Perhaps he got scared; perhaps he (or his company) was bought for a good price, enough to make him calm down.

At any rate, the Communist Party, Yabloko, the Union of Right Forces, and the LDPR all decided that they wanted nothing to do with an “opposition” like the Other Russia. Then Boris Berezovsky went and informed the whole world that he is paying for the Other Russia’s battle against the regime. Hardly anything could do more damage to the Other Russia than this revelation.

The opposition must surely have hoped that Putin’s meeting with Bush the father and Bush the son in the United States would end in an anti-Russian demarche on Washington’s part. And the possible failure of Sochi’s bid for the Winter Olympics should have ruined the Kremlin’s image completely. But things didn’t work out that way at all. Reportedly, Putin reassured the Americans by sharing his plans with them.

Second: Putin has managed to impose a foreign policy agenda on the West (primarily the USA) – an agenda that’s advantageous for the Kremlin: cooperation on nuclear disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation, regulating local conflicts, and no substantial criticism of each other’s domestic politics.

Third: the International Olympic Committee decided that Russia will host the 2014 Winter Olympics. For the Kremlin, securing this decision meant delivering a painful kick to Russia’s pro-Western opposition.

Dmitri Medvedev signalled the end of the political season in his interview with the Vedomosti newspaper: he said that Putin will name his successor this autumn – that is, at the start of the next political season.

Naturally, these victories have been somewhat reassuring for the major political players – especially the United Russia party. It’s started talking of some new initiatives: for instance, establishing sector-specific departments within the party’s headquarters, like the CPSU used to have. The argument is that this would help United Russia monitor the government’s performance in carrying out the next president’s instructions.

Finally: as they head off for their summer vacations, analysts are talking of the top three candidates on the federal lists of the leading parties. The latest rumor is that United Russia’s top three might look like this: Sergei Ivanov, Dmitri Medvedev, and Boris Gryzlov. Analysts now agree that even though there are two pro-Putin parties – United Russia and Just Russia – it’s unlikely that each of their federal candidate lists will be headed by one of the two successor favorites. United Russia has made it clear that it wants Ivanov; but Medvedev is unlikely to head Just Russia’s list, since that party already has a leader – Sergei Mironov.

So United Russia’s list might end up with the next president and the next prime minister. Well, why not? The final decision will be announced at United Russia’s congress.