Kommersant daily featured an article "Candidate N1" about Vladimir Putin’s election campaign. Vladimir Putin remains the front-runner in the election race, the newspaper notes. His possible chances of winning already in the first round look rather high. The candidate’s team has come to the correct conclusions from United Russia’s unsuccessful parliamentary campaign. However, this does not mean that the political crisis has been left behind.
The current election campaign is in fact the fourth for Putin, but he never before he joined the campaign under such unfavorable circumstances. When last September he announced his intentions to return to presidency he could hardly imagine that the election campaign would be so difficult. In December 2011 the situation was almost critical. Unexpectedly low results of the United Russia at the parliamentary election, the loss of the constitutional majority in the parliament, mass protests against falsifications and violations – all this seemed to create a negative background for Vladimir Putin's presidential campaign. However, the candidate and his team managed to turn the circumstances to their advantage.
United Russia was increasingly turning into a political burden for Putin. Having shaped into a community of managers of all ranks, United Russia became an ideal object for opponents’ criticism. An appeal to vote against “the party of swindlers and thieves” that came from the social networks in December 2011, rang the bell not only in Moscow and St. Petersburg, but across the whole country. The final figures made it possible for the party to retain control over the State Duma's lower house, but Vladimir Putin got an opportunity to distance himself from the United Russia without formally announcing it. The party discharged its duty back in November by nominating him as a candidate for Russian presidency. In other respects the party is almost not seen and not heard.
Thousands-strong rallies in Moscow and St. Petersburg, protests in other regions came as a shock for the authorities in power and their leader, although it was thoroughly concealed. However, by the beginning of 2012, Putin’s team decided to turn mass protests into the main opponent of the candidate. For that, it had to be demonized a bit.
Citizen’s protests were dubbed as “an orange threat”, leaders (if one can speak here about leaders at all) were accused of ties with the USA, and Putin’s allies are being mobilized under the slogans of maintaining Russia’s unity. As a result, the presidential elections turn into a referendum on confidence not just in Putin, but the state as a whole.
Putin’s headquarters have been so zealous that two of the three sociological services state with confidence that there will be no runoff this time, the newspaper stresses.