To say that Russia will experience another October Revolution would be an overstatement, but to deny that Putin’s iron grip and popular support is declining would be a mistake.
Political gurus project a Vladimir Putin victory in the upcoming March elections but his reputation is steadily declining across the largest country in the world. Russian protestors took to the streets following the December parliamentary elections after opposition parties claimed that Putin’s party had rigged votes in favor of the former KGB officer. Putin will win the March elections but his support will continue to plummet in the coming years.
Russian newspaper Kommerstant recently reported a poll from the FOM on January 21-22 and asked, “If you participated in the election for the president of Russia, for which of the following candidates would you vote?”
The result was the following: Putin (44%), Zyuganov (11%), Zhirivonsky (9%), Mironov (4%), Prokhorov (4%), and Yavlinsky (2%).
Surprisingly, Putin’s numbers have remained steady since November (42%), but this does not mean that his party will enjoy full support from most of Russia; certainly, his shadow over Russian politics has waned. A similar asked: “Do you trust or not trust the head of the government of the Russian Federation V. Putin?” and found that Russians’ trust of Putin has declined since 2010 (70%) to a new low (40%).
Mikhail Prokhorov, billionaire Russian tycoon and owner of the New Jersey Nets, emphasized the need for abandoning conservative ideology in favor of democratic evolution, “what worked before does not work now. Look in the streets. People are not happy. It’s time to change,” he said. Some opposition politicians have labeled Prokhorov as Putin’s puppet whose only role is to channel middle-class anger so Putin’s reputation is not tarnished, an accusation Prokhorov denies.
Putin has also stepped up anti-U.S. rhetoric as election month looms. Jan Techau, director of the European Center of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Brussels, said, “The No. 1 reason Putin is doing this is elections, this is vintage Putin.” Putin’s tactics seem to be working in a country where ill will toward the U.S. during the Cold War is still fresh in the memory of many Russians. At the crux of Putin’s criticism is America’s missile-defense system that, the U.S. claims, is designed to preempt threats outside of Europe, like Iran, an explanation Putin refuses to accept.
Putin will inevitably win the March election but much to Putin’s chagrin, the plight of the Russian people will not be swept away into the dustbin of history. Russia’s recent riots have shown that Putin’s grip will continue to loosen with every passing year.
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