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Don't Expect Change, a Jaded Putin Signals at Annual Phone-In

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President Vladimir Putin’s annual phone-in show on June 20 was the first to be held in the new political reality: a year ago, the consequences of raising the retirement age, falling ratings, and growing protests were not yet fully clear or palpable. The latest televised phone-in marathon was a test of both the president’s personal ability and that of the state to adapt to this new reality.

Putin had clearly prepared for his interaction with the public particularly meticulously, yet without the implementation of any political changes — a possibility completely ignored during this latest social therapy session — any attempts at adaptation will only add to the problems and further conserve the regime.

Much has been written about how Putin has drifted away from domestic policy in recent years, and at the last few phone-ins, it was obvious that the president was fatigued by the social agenda. This year was clearly an attempt to amend that image, with extensive discussion of social issues. It seems that the president was consciously trying to resume the role of national leader by increasing the traditional therapeutic component of the phone-in, which had drastically decreased in the last few years.

The manual control that has always been ascribed to the Putin regime has dwindled to four hours once a year for the phone-in, when individual approved groups get the chance to address the president and solve their problems, whether industry-related, corporate, or social.

Firstly, this precludes a systematic, long-term approach to solving problems that don’t fall under the much-vaunted national projects, the roadmap for Russia’s strategic development. Secondly, this measured ladling out of political leadership doesn’t solve one of the system’s main problems: the political deficit of Putin, who is drifting away not just........

© The Moscow Times