BRUSSELS – Vladimir Putin’s return to the Kremlin as Russia’s president was always a foregone conclusion. But, when he is sworn in on May 7, he will retake formal charge of a country whose politics – even Putin’s own political future – has turned unpredictable.
Putin’s return to the presidency, following a period of de facto control as prime minister, was supposed to signify a reassuring continuation of “business as usual” – a strong, orderly state devoid of the potentially destabilizing effects of multiparty democracy and bickering politicians.
Instead, the Russian people have now challenged the status quo. Their reaction to Putin’s plan – from the announcement last September that President Dmitri Medvedev would stand aside for his mentor, to the deeply flawed parliamentary and presidential elections – and their accumulated resentment of Kremlin cronies’ massive enrichment, has placed pressure on Putin and the top-down system of government that he created.