Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to host a televised call-in with ordinary citizens on Tuesday, to be broadcast live across Russia. As in the past, the president's annual call-in, while sounding out public opinion, will probably also try to form it.
Since 2001, Putin has used televised phone-ins to announce new initiatives, and also as a forum to control political discourse. The president used his 2003 appearance to announce his re-election bid, while the following year's call-in show focused on social and economic concerns ahead of monetization of Soviet-era benefits. This year's show will most likely focus on Putin's political future and the extra budgetary expenditures, to the tune of $4 billion, which are slated for next year.
The topic widely referred to as "operation successor" will most certainly be one of the major points of discussion in the call-in. Putin will be asked whether he intends to stand down as president once his second term ends, as the constitution requires. Public opinion polls have consistently shown that the majority of the Russian electorate would like Putin to remain in office.
Given that Putin has been asked this question repeatedly over the past few months, there can be no doubt he will reply with his usual "yes." What might be of greater interest, however, is whether the president will drop any hints as to the person he may name as his successor. If any names are mentioned, the Kremlin can be expected to closely study the public's response, reports RIA Novosti.
According to the Moscow Times, a lot of callers are also asking the president to clarify his Sept. 5 announcement that an extra 115 billion rubles ($4 billion) will be spent on health care, education, housing and agriculture over the next few years. Putin promised that general practitioners and nurses employed in municipal clinics would get hefty salary hikes next year but did not say anything about other doctors, creating some controversy over the promised raises.
Callers also are asking why the government's multibillion-dollar stabilization fund is not being spent and whether Putin will do anything to control rising gasoline prices.
In addition, callers want to know whether Putin has decided who will be his preferred successor and what he plans to do after the presidential election in 2008.
The call-in show, the fourth in Putin’s five years in office, has become the president's way of connecting with ordinary people.