Coronavirus deals blow to Putin’s plans to stay in power until 2036

Analysis by Nathan Hodge, CNN |

Moscow (CNN)Russian President Vladimir Putin has long provided other world leaders with a template for authoritarian rule. Now he faces a new test: Whether his top-down system can survive the coronavirus pandemic.

In a televised address to the nation Wednesday, Putin announced a sweeping array of measures to cope with the spread of the virus and its widening economic effects.

“Let’s not rely on our Russian luck,” he said. “Please do not think, as we often do: ‘Oh, this will not touch me.’ It can touch everyone. And then what is happening today in many Western countries, both in Europe and overseas, could become our immediate future.”

Why does Russia, population 146 million, have fewer coronavirus cases than Luxembourg?

Why does Russia, population 146 million, have fewer coronavirus cases than Luxembourg?

Some of the measures were meant to soften the economic blow. Starting on March 28, Russians will have a week’s paid leave — to stay home. Russians will see a moratorium on mortgage payments, and enterprises will be given credit holidays. And families entitled to government payments to support multiple children will receive extra monthly payments.

But coronavirus has taken on a political dimension for the Russian leader: Putin also announced that a nationwide referendum on constitutional amendments scheduled for April 22 has been postponed until further notice.

“We’ll evaluate the situation and based only on the recommendations from doctors and specialists we will decide on a new date,” Putin said.

It’s hard to understate how important that vote was to securing the Russian president’s hold on power. Putin has grasped the reins of power in his country for two decades, but his current term ends in 2024, leaving Russia with a potential succession crisis.

Putin’s system of managed democracy means that power flows from one man: The president has no serious political competition, his friends and allies control the commanding heights of the economy and Putin is the ultimate arbiter of disputes between elites. The current constitution requires Putin to step down after his current term, meaning that the system he presides over could quickly unravel.

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About Cholo Brooks 13170 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.