OPINION

Political chess moves

The stage had been set for a massive public relations onslaught by Gary Kasparov. The famous chess champion who turned to politics in 2005, the Azeri who wanted to save Russia even though until last April he was an executive of the US National Security Advisory Council of the Center for Security Policy, last Monday submitted his candidacy for next year’s Russian presidential election. On the great chessboard of politics, however, Russian President Vladimir Putin (who may not stand for a third term as president) announced Monday that he would be heading his party’s list in December’s parliamentary elections and that he could become prime minister after his presidential term ends next spring. Given that Putin in mid-September nominated low-profile Victor Zubkov for prime minister, it appears that Putin is planning to switch places with Zubkov. However, Putin may still be king even after changing places with the rook, Zubkov. The international press was almost unanimous in its recognition of the fact that if he so desired, Putin could easily revise the constitution and be re-elected with the approval of over two-thirds of his compatriots. Even Western governments that entertained vain hopes of a velvet revolution in Moscow are beginning to get used to the idea of a strong Russia with Putin at the helm, even as a backseat driver. Still, the leader credited with the revival of his vast nation is also a symbol of the limits of that revival. His peculiar brand of Bonapartism might at one time have been necessary, but in the long term it has not produced a durable mechanism of civil administration and social cohesion. As long as Russian politics is a one-man show, acclamation for its savior will risk turning into an outcry against him.