Russia 2012

Russian Presidential election

Medvedev’s New Address

January 22, 2008

The right address really matters in Russian politics. You need to be in the Kremlin, or as close as possible. From that point of view, Dmitry Medvedev, President Vladimir Putin’s preferred candidate in the March 2 election, has won the best possible location for his campaign staff. According to the daily Vedemosti, dozens of Medvedev’s aides will move into 8, Staraya Ploshchad – an official buildings just a mile from the Kremlin’s red-brick walls.

Originally a hotel built in 1902 by renowned architect Fyodor Shekhtel, the building became part of an office compound occupied by ruling bodies of the Soviet Communist party. In Soviet days, the expression “Staraya Ploshchad” (“Old Square” in Russian) was as widely used as “the Kremlin” when referring to the national leadership.

The geographical location of Medvedev’s staff is part of a broader plan to boost the image of a man already heavily engaged in ruling the country. It should play well with Russians.

According to a survey by state-run pollster VTsIOM last Friday, 48 percent want the next president to be a “true father of the nation”, while another 42 percent said he should be an experienced manager. The symbolism of Staraya Ploshchad meets the expectations of both groups.

The location of Medvedev’s campaign staff is part of a plan to present him as a man trusted by Putin to continue with his policies – something wanted by many Russians worried that the presidential succession might disrupt the country’s biggest economic boom in a generation.

At the same time, there are growing signs that the campaign will be a carefully controlled operation run tightly by the Kremlin, rather than a conventional campaign.

— In an unprecedented decision, Putin has delegated Kremlin chief of staff Sergei Sobyanin to head Medvedev’s campaign. The gesture shows that Putin is handing over his top people to his successor but at the same time analysts have noted that it will give Putin strong control over Medvedev, at least in the initial stages of his administration.

— Trying to position himself as a statesman above the political fray, Medvedev has refused to take part in debates with other candidates. Instead, he will use high-profile venues before selected audiences to deliver campaign speeches.

— Kremlin officials have said outdoor campaign advertisements will be reduced to a minimum. “Rolls-Royce does not need ads, it has a reputation,” one official commented.

The strategy may be unconventional in Western terms but it seems to be working.

According to the latest VTsIOM poll published on Tuesday, 60.4 percent of respondents would vote for Medvedev – way ahead of nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky (7.5 percent) and Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov (6.1 percent). Medvedev’s ratings have grown by nearly 8 percent in a week.

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