There are those, not least in the West, who hope or even suppose that Vladimir Putin’s reincarnation on 7 May as President of Russia will mean a fresh start.
On the face of it, he is well placed to make one. The new Duma is structured for subservience, the Russian economy is doing pretty well, and the protest movement has lost the momentum it enjoyed from December 2011 to March this year. Putin’s personal dominance over the small group of his associates that rule the country has been reinforced.
That also means of course that his answerability for the future course of events has increased too. It would be unusual for any man embarking on what in effect is his fourth term of office to change his underlying ideas. Dimitry Medvedev, who used a different vocabulary, has been set aside as a tame Prime Minister in waiting. It is probable that the next administration President Putin sponsors will for the most part be a reshuffle of well-used cards. Putin’s campaign offering was stability, not change.