Could the next President of the Russian Federation be a woman? The UK Independent is speculating that Valentina Matviyenko, the current governor of St. Petersburg and ally of Vladimir Putin, could run for that office in 2012.
Valentina Matviyenko was elected Governor of St. Petersburg in 2003, in a move that some suggest may have been orchestrated by Putin. By all accounts, she has been quite successful, making the city built by Czar Peter the Great prosperous and growing.
“Vast investment by the central government improved the city’s dilapidated fabric in time for the 300th anniversary in 2003. But the bigger changes have happened since, with huge new housing and commercial building projects and, most conspicuously, a transformation of the public mood. For the first time in my more than 30 years of visiting, people on the streets of St Petersburg seem confident and content with themselves.”
The career of Matviyenko has tracked with the history of Russia in the late 20th and early 21st Centuries. She started as a Young Communist leader, then moved on to be an ally of Mikhail Gorbachev during the Perestroika era, to a reforming public official in the Putin regime. She was born in the Ukraine and is a trained chemist.
The Independent article is comparing Valentina Matviyenko to Margaret Thatcher or Angela Merkel; Sarah Palin also comes to mind. If she were to become President of the Russian Federation, she will have achieved power in that country unprecedented since the reign of Catherine the Great.
There are some barriers to a potential Matviyenko Presidency. The main one is Vladimir Putin, who was President before the current occupant of that office, Dmitry Medvedev, is well-known to desire running for it again. Vladimir Putin is a ruthless politician. Going up against her old mentor may be too formidable a prospect for Valentina Matviyenko.
The other problem is Soviet-era boasting about female equality and women leaders in business and politics are few and far between. Russian society remains very male-dominated, with sexist attitudes toward women and their role in society unenlightened compared to the West.
Still, the idea of a female President of Russia, who has had some success spurring economic growth in St. Petersburg and in fighting corruption, is an appealing one. If Putin decides to remain a power behind the throne and not occupy it himself, the idea may become reality.
And if, in the same year, Sarah Palin or Hillary Clinton becomes President of the United States, the world will be confronted with the odd spectacle of the two old rival super powers being governed by women.
Source: Valentina Matviyenko: Meet Russia’s Thatcher, the chemist who could end up in the Kremlin, Mary Dejevsky, UK Independent, September 6th, 2010