Is Russia's President Putin a dictator or democrat?
Russia's Central Election Commission has allowed more than 500 foreign observers to monitor the March 14th. presidential election. Half of the monitors are from the Vienna based OSCE, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The election looks like a foregone conclusion for incumbent president Vladimir Putin. Jill Zobel spoke to Nikolai Petrov from the Carnegie Center in Moscow and to Russiaa expert Gerhard Mangott, from the Austrian institute for international relations and asked them to analyse Mr Piutin's appeal to Russians.
So he is vulnerable but the mood in Russia after four years of Vladimir Putin, Nikolai would you say it is more optimistic?
PETROV: "Yes I would say that the situation in the economy improved essentially and it is felt by ordinary Russians but we need to have in mind that since Mr Putin has come into power that state control over the mass media has essentially increased and so if we are speaking about a kind of virtual origin of Mr. Putin's popularity then it is kept by this control over mass media."
MANGOTT: "The nationwide television stations are either directly or indirectly under full state control. Of course there are some independent newspapers but they have a circulation of a few hundred thousand in the huge cities of St. Petersburg or Moscow, in the huge cities of the country. So it's not the print media which has an impact on public opinion it's the electronic media."
It's also expected I believe that after the March 14th elections the communist party, after 101 years, will basically cease to exist.
Is he a dictator, is he Czar, or is he a democratically elected president?
MANGOTT: "I don't consider him to be a dictator, he's definitely not anti-democratic. I think he doesn't care about democracy. He has a different mission. He feels himself being a modernizer of Russia in order to make it a great country again. So he's very much a pragmatic nationalist and he has done a good job in terms of modernising Russia, real income has gone up, fiscal responsibility is in place, so in economic terms he's very successful. "