I should specify that Vladimir Putin hinted at officially returning to power – in reality he probably never left. He got to hand-pick his successor, Dmitry Medvedev, and remain on as Prime Minister, so, no, I don’t think Mr. Putin has been wasting away in political exile.
Putin made the comments to Russian newspaper Kommersant (as reported by swissinfo.ch):
Asked by the Kommersant daily newspaper in an interview whether Russia’s 2012 presidential election did not worry him because he had already decided it, Putin replied:
“No, it interests me like…I wanted to say like everyone, but in fact more than everyone else. But I don’t want to make a fetish out of it.”
He’s being coy, but I highly doubt he’ll choose to forgo reelection, this time to a six-year term. Apparently the Russian constitution forbids candidates from serving two consecutive terms, but as long as there’s a placeholder to break up your reign – like a certain hand-picked current Russian President – then you’re good to go.
I don’t think long-term leaders are particularly healthy for modern democracies, or any country really. We were supposed to have left the era of monarchs and czars long behind. If Putin runs and wins, it will signal that we’re not really that far removed from the divine right of kings as we might think – and it will be with the blessing of the Russian people.