Negative action is dialectically blanked, becoming indistinguishable from passive inaction. Thus, any subtraction of votes from Putin’s majority – either through nonparticipation in the election or by supporting any candidate other than Putin – essentially only reproduces this same majority (1 – 1 = 1). Addition: 2 + 3 = 1
At the opposite end of the political spectrum, the topic of the election is also in no way connected with the formally still-recognized normative ideas about this procedure – ideas of the election of the head of state as a free and transparent competitive struggle between candidates who express differing views on the present and future of the country.
The winner is clear, with the intrigue having been kept up for a long time solely because he delayed an official announcement of his intention to seek another term, instead collecting popular pleas to “continue his work.” Note that in Russian history, recourse to such a political ritual arose exclusively in situations where there was a crisis of legitimacy and the authorities sought to further monopolize their power.
In 1565, by pretending to abdicate, Ivan the Terrible forced “the people, priests and boyars of Moscow” to beg him to stay on, after which he introduced the Oprichnina, launched a terror against his own subjects and threw off the last constraints on his autocratic rule that had been inherited from the medieval past.
In 1598, Boris Godunov was able to similarly repeat the feat. Having abdicated the throne several times, he forced the public to demonstrate support, which allowed him not to sign an official agreement with the Zemsky Sobor that had elected him. As a result, he concentrated in his hands all of the autocratic power that had emerged under Ivan the Terrible.
Organized from above but coming from below, the pleas were not long in coming this time either: since November, they have been heard at almost every meeting of Putin with representatives of the public, from a meeting of the Presidential Council for Human Rights to the World Russian People’s Council. Athletes, deputies, deputies who were athletes, actors, officials, singers and beauty bloggers spoke about the need for a fifth
Putin term (or for the first
, considering the “zeroing” of presidential terms by the amendments to the Russian Constitution adopted in 2020: 2 + 3 = 1).
To produce this wave of public support, Putin did not even have to act out the desire to leave; it was enough just to delay expressing the desire to stay. In reality, the pause was taken to allow this wave of popular love for the permanent leader, engineered by so-called “political technologists,” to crest.
On November 28, at a meeting of the abovementioned World Russian People’s Council, Patriarch Kirill addressed Putin, linking what is God’s and what is Caesar’s; society, state and its head; and the beginning of Putin’s rule, its present and future: “from the very beginning of your time in the post of head of state... the absolute majority of our citizens began to link society and the state with you... may the Lord strengthen you
... so that you continue your work for the good of our Russian fatherland, the entire Russian people.”
In front of those gathered, with “God’s help,” the patriarch transformed rational electoral discourse (“post of head of state,” “absolute majority,” “citizens”) into the good word about Putin’s continuing to “work for the good of the fatherland... and the entire Russian people.” The dry letter of election was imbued with the living spirit of chosenness.