Was it not a nice surprise that the first woman to reach outer space, Valentina Tereshkova, who landed a seat in the Duma, a grandmother just turned 83, should suddenly think of poor Vladimir Putin? Such a neglected figure. Someone had to.
“I wish to say that each one of us should help the President”, she announced with staring eyes, her hair permed in the grand plastic manner, worthy of the late Margaret Thatcher. “He alone took the country, which was broken into pieces, and pulled it together. He is doing a very great deal so that people can live well. It cannot happen straight away, of course; it does take time. But if we don’t help him, who will?” Quite so. How could one argue with that?
Tereshkova’s perspective is no doubt enhanced by her out of world experience. One is reminded of Tarkovsky’s Solaris, when the astronaut starts having disturbing visions to the moving strains of Bach’s Ich ruf zu dir. What did she radio in from up there? “I see the horizon. A light blue, a beautiful band. This is the Earth. How beautiful it is! All goes well.” Certainly uplifting. What a grandmother to have!
One can imagine tears streaming down the faces of those privileged to be present at such an extraordinary, if not out of body experience; anxious to know what little they could possibly do, mere members of the Duma, when faced with this Dickensian dilemma. Should everyone perhaps not pass around a hat for a collection that would make up a decent pension for someone so down on his luck? No.
Instead our Vladimir should soldier on. The new constitution should either allow him to proceed in office unhindered by any indecent thought of replacement at election or, indeed, granted him restricted length of service but turn the clock back as if by magic and let him start as though he had never been president at all so that he could carry on as before, pulling the country together and helping everyone out until he drops. The coach need not after all turn back into a pumpkin come the midnight hour. The fairy tale must be revised.
In response, the President, no doubt completely taken by surprise, and holding back his own deep emotion, generously acceded to such wishes provided, naturally, the voters – presumably with no real alternative presented – give their vote of approval.
In Africa, no doubt, this kind of thing is a bit more rough and ready. The elegant gestures wanting. But the result is the same.