World View: Putin Resumes Russian Presidency with New Set of Challenges

This morning's key headlines from

  • Vladimir Putin becomes President of Russia again
  • Russian police in Moscow arrest hundreds of protesters
  • Putin's rule in Russia faces harsh new challenges
  • Greece may have new elections if government formation fails
  • France's Hollande to meet with Germany's Merkel

Vladimir Putin becomes President of Russia again

This certainly has to count as one of the most spectacular political stunts of the 21st century so far. Vladimir Putin served two four-year terms as President of Russia, but was barred in 2008 by the constitution in running for a third consecutive term. So he arranged for Dmitry Medvedev to become President, while he became Prime Minister. He was accused of doing this by arrangement so that he could become president again in 2012, but he denied that there was any arrangement. In 2009, he arranged for the constitution to be amended so that the president serves for six-year terms. Then late last year he admitted that he'd been lying all along, and the whole thing was an arrangement, and he expected to become president again. There was a parliamentary election in December that was so fraudulent that it triggered massive violent protests. The recent presidential election was steeped in fraud as well. So on Monday, Vladimir Putin took office as President of Russia again, for a six-year term. Australian Broadcasting

Russian police in Moscow arrest hundreds of protesters

On Sunday, there were violent clashes between police and demonstrators for the first time since rallies began in December, and smaller demonstrations on Monday as Russian police locked Moscow down. By Monday evening, 300 people had been detained, after 450 people had been detained on Sunday. Moscow Times

Putin's rule in Russia faces harsh new challenges

Vladimir Putin was inaugurated as President of Russia on Monday with all the usual ceremonial pomp and fanfar, but three events have marred the solemnity of the day and indicate that Putin's rule will be very difficult. First was the big opposition march on Sunday. Second was a sharp fall in Moscow stock exchange share prices on Friday. And the third was the most tragic one – two suicide explosions rocked Makhachkala, Dagestan on May 3, killing 14 people. Unrest and violence have been increasing in Russia's North Caucasus provinces, and Putin will be desperate to use bribery or any other device at his disposal for two more years so that Sochi will be safe to host the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. Jamestown

Greece may have new elections if government formation fails

Prior to this year, Greece's two leading political parties, the conservative New Democracy and the center-left socialist PASOK, together took about 80% of the votes. In Sunday's election, they took only 35% of the votes, reflecting the fury of voters at the austerity measures that they've supported in return for the the EU bailouts. New Democracy, led by Antonis Samaras, got the most votes, 18.85%, and spent Monday knocking on doors trying to form a governing coalition. However, nobody wanted to join with Samaras, either because they want to try to form a left-wing coalition or because they refuse to endorse the austerity program. Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), led by Alexis Tsipras, came in second place with 16.78% of the vote, and so on Tuesday Tsipras will take a turn at trying to form a government composed of left-wing parties opposed to the austerity measures. However, the communist party (KKE) has already said they won't work with Tsipras, so a failure is likely there as well. Then it will be third-place PASOK's turn. If they fail as well, then there will be new elections in a few weeks. Either way, the Greek crisis will be continuing for a while. Kathimerini

France's Hollande to meet with Germany's Merkel

Greece will certainly be an important agenda item when France's new president François Hollande meets German Chancellor Angela Merkel next week in Berlin. Hollande has softened his campaign demands to "renegotiate" the fiscal stability treaty that was signed by 25 of 27 EU nations in December, and will soon be subject to a referendum in Ireland. Instead, he's now talking about ADDING a "growth pact" to the treaty. Merkel has angrily ruled out any renegotiation, but has indicated a willingness to consider new fiscal and monetary policies that could promote growth. However, the bottom line is that she will not agree to any proposal that allows countries to borrow more money in order to boost spending. Irish Times