Millennium Post

Putin's lady challenger

Putins lady challenger
The question of who would take on Vladimir Putin in this year's Presidential Elections has taken a sharp turn with former TV star Ksenia Sobchak confirming her bid. She had, of course, made her intentions known earlier. Her emergence carries the novelty of a woman, and a young one at that, she turns 36 next month, throwing her hat in the ring. Few know her outside Russia. But not inside the country, where her name is recognised nationwide, thanks to an early career in reality television which she used as a springboard for a more varied, and serious, media career. She joined the opposition protests of 2011-12, and there had been speculation for a while that she might consider a Presidential bid in 2018. But, it is not just the name-recognition that she enjoys. In the open letter to a newspaper where she declared her candidacy, she made clear that she would capitalise on her lineage. As the second daughter of the late Anatoly Sobchak, the first democratically elected mayor of Saint Petersburg, in whose team Putin rose to prominence – she knows and is prepared to question, pretty much anyone who is anything in today's Russia. Not that her candidacy has been greeted with universal enthusiasm, either among opposition figures or commentators, who have taken a distinctly condescending view of her ambitions. The solid presumption, in Russia's upper echelons, as across the rest of the world is that Putin will not only run but also win another term and remain President until 2024. The same people denouncing him as an autocrat, an aggressor and worse, might well feel suddenly that a Russia without Putin could be a lot less predictable and more dangerous than a Russia with Putin at the helm. And what of Russia if next year's Presidential race was suddenly open, genuinely open? The political mood is not the same as it was a decade ago and a new post-Soviet generation has come of voting age. There is the outright opposition, with Alexei Navalny, who has evolved from a single-issue campaigner against corruption into a broader political force. But, the chances of his candidacy are now well and truly ruled out. Which is where Ksenia Sobchak comes in. The scenario is odd, of course. The overwhelming consensus is that Putin will run, and win – not only, it is said, because he wants to remain in power, but because out of office he could risk prosecution. Then again, no one is immortal, and a time will come when Putin's name will not be on the Presidential ballot paper. It is an eventuality that not only Russians but the rest of the world should prepare for.
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