Putin’s game:

Russians and a lot of Russia watchers have been wondering not if, but how Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, would hold on to power. We fear we got our answer recently. Putin, who must step down as president next year, announced that he will head the election list of the dominant party, United Russia, in December’s parliamentary election. After the chaos of the first post-Communist years, Putin restored a measure of security and stability. He has also done serious damage to the country’s fragile democratic institutions by turning the Parliament into a rubber stamp. In effect, he led Russia back to its historical dependence on one powerful leader, and he did this with the support of a majority of the Russians.

We cannot begrudge the Russians a measure of stability and prosperity after what they have gone through. But what they need now is to start building a true democracy on the basis of that stability and prosperity. We hope Putin will rethink this cynical game. If he does run for Parliament, he could use his seat to share his experience with a new political generation —

but we doubt it. If his only intention is to hold on to power, then he will be proclaiming that institutions don’t matter, only the person manipulating them. Russia’s been there, too long. That is not what it needs now.