On December 6, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his 2018 presidential bid, during a festive rally at the GAZ automotive factory. During the rally, Artyom Baranov, a senior factory operations analyst, told Putin:
"Thank you very much for your warm words, for joining us in our celebration, and congratulating us on the 85th anniversary of our plant. Today, at the volunteers' forum, someone asked you if you are going to run for president, and you said that if the people want you to, then you would. Everyone in this audience, without exception, supports you. Mr. President, do us a favor. Announce your decision now. After all, we are for you. GAZ is for you."
Putin replied, announcing his candidacy: "Indeed, there is probably no better place or better occasion for announcing this. Thank you for your support. I will be a candidate for the office of President of the Russian Federation. Thank you very much. Thank you for the response. Above all, thank you for your work. Thank you for your attitude to your work, the enterprise, the city, and the country. Together we will succeed."
Earlier on the same day, Putin took part in the annual National Volunteer of Russia 2017 award ceremony with Russian youth. During the event, he was asked whether he would run in the 2018 presidential elections. Putin answered: "This is a very responsible decision because it is only motivated by a striving to improve the life of people in this country, to make it more powerful, protected and oriented towards the future. It is only possible to reach these goals if people trust and support you. In this context … I would like to ask you a question. If I make this decision, will you and like-minded people support it?" The response from the hall was a strong "Yes!"
The Russian news agency Tass explained that Putin did not yet disclose whether he would run as the United Russia party nominee or as an independent self-nominated candidate.
Below are reactions to Putin's announcement:
Putin's visit to the GAZ automotive plant. (Source: Kremlin.ru)
Putin at the annual National Volunteer of Russia 2017 award ceremony, prior to announcing his candidacy at the automobile plant. (Source: Kremlin.ru)
Russian Analyst Kalachev: The Announcement Was Meant To Show That Putin Is The President Of The People, Not Of The Elite
The Russian newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta noted that Putin did not break with the tradition of delivering his main announcement in front of the working class. The Head of the Political Expert Group think tank Konstantin Kalachev told Nezavisimaya Gazeta: "The Kremlin predicted this decision in advance; it did not come unexpectedly, and the president provided a response. This all looked like he was the people's president and relied on the people, not on the elite,"
(Ng.ru, December 7, 2017; Tass.com, December 7, 2017)
Putin with the workers of the GAZ automotive plant. (Source: Kremlin.ru)
Political Analyst Zhuravlev: Without Putin Things Would Work Worse, He Is The 'Engine Of The Entire System'
Dmitry Zhuravlev, Director of the Institute of Regional Problems, commented in an article titled "The Sytem's Engine (playing on the fact that Putin announced his candidacy before automotive workers:
"This is a very precise symbolic action. The president in Russia is a distinct political phenomenon. He is not merely the chief ruler, the head of executive authority – he is the head of the entire country, of the whole people. Putin announced his wish to participate in the electoral process precisely at a factory, among ordinary people, and the linkage is created: Putin as a president and the people. It is not about Putin as a politician, it is about Putin and the people per se on the same level. Russia understands this symbol."
Zhuravlev then added: "It's not just about the fact that everyone cheered [after Putin's announcement]. It's about how everyone cheered. I've heard screams like that only during performance concerts, this is an emotional reaction to a star. No politician in Russia, either now or in a previous era, provoked such a reaction."
Zhuravlev concluded: "It is clear that Putin, who was there at the very beginning of various processes, will be highly more effective in continuing them than any new person. But this is not the entire truth… The main thing is not that he will do some job better. The main thing is rather that he is the adhesive link. It's not about some specific tasks or projects, though they are definitely needed... but this is about the fact that if Putin today ceases to be politically active, many things in the current political configuration will work worse. Not only specific things, like, for example, the Arctic or Crimea, many things will work worse, since Putin is the engine of the entire system, he is its center".
(Ria.ru, December 7, 2017)
GAZ workers attending the event with Putin (Source: Vedomosti.ru)
Putin with GAZ workers (Source: Vedomosti.ru)
Russian Journalist Zheleznova: Putin's Announcement Is A Natural Phenomenon
Journalists Maria Zheleznova sarcastically wrote in an editorial in Vedomosti that finally the "suspense" was over. However, the "suspense" was about whether or not Putin would run in the presidential elections, but when and where he would make the announcement. She then concluded:
"Putin's announcement to run for the presidency is a natural phenomenon, like a New Year night celebrations – the next day the life will go on as before, without regard for the irrational illusions, which appear on New Year's eve…"
(Vedomosti.ru, December 6, 2017)
Political Analyst Mukhin: Putin's Political Opponents Provoked His Nomination
The Director General of the Center for Political Information Alexey Mukhin said: "Vladimir Putin's opponents, both inside and outside of Russia, whose activities pose threats and risks to our country, triggered his nomination. He spent two years pondering about running for a fourth term. However, at a difficult time for the country he could not back down. Putin acted appropriately; a candidate's decision is expected in such circumstances."
(Tass.com, December 7, 2017; Ng.ru, December 7, 2017)
Putin's Campaign: 'People, Human Resources, The Future'
TASS surveyed the Russian media to define what the main topics of Putin's campaign will be. A source close to the Kremlin enumerated to RBC the key elements of Putin's campaign: "People, human resources, the future - the youth and the new generation."
The head of the ISEPR Fund, Dmitry Badovsky, told the Russian newspaper Izvestia: "The announcement was made in direct dialogue with the public [at the GAZ automotive plant]. There will be many other similar meetings and events ahead - we will see that the president's decision to run has very wide public support."
(Tass.com, December 7, 2017)
Russian Analyst Kalachev: Rally Round The Leader
Konstantin Kalachev commented to Nezavisimaya Gazeta that Putin's campaign will articulate rhetoric about a great and stable country with a national leader, around whom everyone should rally. According to Kalachev, the slogan will be "Russia is ringed by enemies." However, Kalachev noted that an additional major campaign focus will be Russia's economic development.
(Ng.ru, December 6, 2017)