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The Orwellian Vagueness Of Vladimir Putin's Election Platform

Op-Ed: As the winter presidential campaign sets to heat up, Vladimir Putin has laid out a campaign platform that is intended to neither inspire nor enrage. So lacking in ambition, his list of promises even includes goals that have already been achieved.

Winter in Red Square (Adam Baker)
Winter in Red Square (Adam Baker)
Dmitry Butrin

MOSCOW - Whoever the presidential candidate may be, their pre-election manifesto will be picked apart for its promises on social policy -- and voters are bound to be annoyed or inspired in equal measures. The pre-election pledges of Vladimir Putin, however, manage to do neither.

A politician may stumble badly, get into situations that can destroy the reputation of any businessman or ordinary citizen, become enmeshed in corruption scandals involving hundreds of millions of dollars; and yet the political candidate, in contrast to mere mortals, will always be able to start a speech in the style of Martin Luther King, recounting their "dreams' for a better future.

Political action, carried out in the present, is always looking forward, and most people are prepared to believe the politician, who is a reliable lender of last resort. The dream of Vladimir Putin relies on re-evaluating all his achievements and discounting all his mistakes. The ideas are more important than the politician; and on Putin's website www.putin2012.ru, we could see for ourselves his six-point plan.

The outline of Putin's program, if voiced by another candidate would have sounded much more convincing. Context matters, and the promise of ensuring the "stability" of the pension system masks the fact that the support it provides to the needy is woefully inadequate.

Also if there are question marks over the ruling power's authority, any opposition candidate can theoretically claim legitimacy in the future, while the serving prime minister is under question.

The draft program of Putin can be criticized from any number of positions. It is undoubtedly a weak document. One of the first shortcomings is the unacceptably high use of impersonal, vague terms like "it is essential", "one needs to", or "it will" along with an acute shortage of concrete statements

Also, the document is not subject to any serious economic criticism -- it is simply impossible to figure out what Putin's future political and economic course will be. It promises a "balanced budget" by 2014, even though in 2011, there was a budget surplus.

Teflon-like, dangerously vague

The economy, he says, will be sluggish, but "towards the middle of the decade it is essential to reach a balanced budget." So he utilizes words like "essential", "towards the middle", "reach". Even the cautious ex-finance minister Alexei Kudrin would consider such vagueness dangerous. There is nothing to get your teeth into, it is like Teflon and so nothing sticks.

He says: "Over the last 20 years, 25 million well-paying jobs were created". But there are now 2.5 million unemployed in Russia. The program is written for the years 2012-2018, so this will happen in six years. Why so long and why so slow?

"Funds will be set up for municipal development for the construction of kindergartens with the support of the federal budget." If this is his educational dream, it is a dream only available for a few thousand city administration workers.

"In the regions of Russia, a housing program for public sector employees will be set up," Putin says. Not bad. But Mikhail Gorbachev's promise of each family having their own apartment by 2000 sounded a lot more specific and attractive.

On the armed forces: "Particular attention will be paid to providing protection for army staff on the battlefield and in peacetime." For an officer and a soldier, the idea of being just as protected in peacetime, is insulting.

And so is there nothing of value here? Not quite. There are two other ideas that can formally satisfy the criteria of a good pre-election campaign, and which would significantly improve the lives of most of the electorate.

"We plan to provide universal medical examinations' and "the installation of traffic signs will be put under public control."

Perhaps Putin really is dreaming of something like that for Russia by 2018. But it seems that 143 million other citizens deserve a dream of something much more interesting and ambitious.

Read the original article in Russian

Photo - Adam Baker

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