Timothy Frye (Marshall D. Shulman Professor of Post-Soviet Foreign Policy) was interviewed in Vox regarding Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny’s challenge to President Vladimir Putin’s authority (Jan. 29, 2021).
First, Putin that September announced he would reassume the presidency after serving one term as Russia’s prime minister, the No. 2 role. Simply put, Putin was still in charge of the country, but he accepted a technically inferior position to keep up democratic appearances. The president, Dmitri Medvedev, was viewed as little more than a puppet.
By effectively stating “I will be president again” — without giving Russians any real say in the matter — Putin defied the unspoken “don’t be openly corrupt” rule.
Second, Putin’s party, United Russia, got caught rigging the December 2011 legislative elections. Fraud in Russian elections was normal, and there wasn’t more than usual during that particular vote, “but examples of fraud were spread quickly on the internet for the first time” said Timothy Frye, a Columbia University professor and author of the forthcoming Weak Strongman: The Limits of Power in Putin’s Russia.