Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s approval rating has dropped to its lowest level in over a decade and support for the ruling party has also fallen sharply a month before State Duma elections, according to a new opinion poll.
Only 51 percent of respondents would vote for United Russia, a poll from the Levada Center suggests, down from 60 percent.
As The Moscow Times notes:
With 61 percent of respondents expressing approval for Putin’s actions as prime minister, the Oct. 28-Nov. 1 poll indicates that Putin will have little trouble carrying out his plan to return to the Kremlin. But his approval rating, down from 66 percent in a Levada poll conducted Oct. 21-24, was the lowest since August 2000, when he was dogged by the botched reaction to a naval disaster that killed all 118 crewmen aboard the Kursk submarine.
The ruling elite won’t find it easy to restore the party’s popularity, said analyst Mikhail Vinogradov.
“We can see that they are unable to overcome the fatigue that people feel about politics, about those in power and about United Russia,” he said.
The fall in popularity may be a reaction to the news that that Putin and Medvedev plan to swap jobs, said Levada deputy director Alexei Grazhdankin.
RFE/RL’s Brian Whitmore is more intrigued by a poll leaked to Gazeta.ru which “showed a startling number of regional leaders — many of whom will be leading United Russia’s regional party lists in the December State Duma elections — with approval ratings below 20 percent.”
Russian democrats are worried that Putin may receive a boost from the European Union which is reportedly poised to ask the Kremlin for financial assistance.
The regime is becoming “more and more authoritarian,” the Other Russia’s Gary Kasparov told a news conference at the European Parliament.
“No matter what happens in Russia, it seems that the financial needs will prevail, when you have leading EU countries pleading for Putin to share his oil and gas money,” “I believe concerns about human rights and democracy will be pushed to the darkest corner,” Kasparov said after talks with EU lawmakers.
The EU should not send a team to monitor the December 4 legislative elections and March presidential elections, he said, as the electoral process is a “scam.”
United Russia’s declining poll numbers have prompted the party to release a steamy video (above) to attract younger voters, RFE/RL reports.
Ostensibly non-partisan civic posters urging citizens to vote in the Dec. 4 State Duma elections appear to endorse the ruling United Russia party, she notes:
“I’ll explain this phenomenon to you,” said Andrei Buzin, who monitors elections for an American-style, and even American-financed, civic watchdog called Golos (Vote).
After the federal election commission disbursed the equivalent of $230 million to local commissions to prepare for the elections, he said, the city of Moscow awarded its advertising contract to a favored firm — violation No. 1, because it has had the contract for 10 years or so in apparent violation of the law on state purchasing.
“The company is also in charge of advertising materials for United Russia,” Buzin said. “That’s why the images are the same. Of course, the Moscow city election commission knows this very well. The same person has been head of it for 16 years.”
But United Russia’s troubles may benefit the country’s increasingly violent nationalist groups rather than the-democratic opposition.
Thousands of ultranationalists and neo-Nazis marched through Moscow last week, AP reports, “calling on ethnic Russians to ‘take back’ their country, as resentment grows over dark-complexioned Muslim migrants from Russia’s Caucasus and the money the Kremlin sends to the restive region.”
At least 320 ultranationalists were convicted of hate crimes last year, according to Sova, an independent rights watchdog.
“Experts say nationalism has risen to feed the void in national ideology – communism fell in 1991 only to be replaced by today’s cult of Putin,” The Guardian reports:
Friday’s rally was held to coincide with the Day of National Unity, a holiday Putin founded in 2005 to replace the commemoration of the Bolshevik Revolution. Yet according to the Levada Centre, a Russian pollster, 59% of Russians do not know what it stands for. And, argue analysts, neither do the country’s leadership.
“Putin and Medvedev were away from Moscow on a day that is technically Russia’s main holiday,” said Masha Lipman, an analyst at the Carnegie Centre in Moscow. “They don’t have a message. They don’t know what to say.”
“Putin is walking a tightrope. He is being evasive,” she said. “Ahead of elections, he can’t afford to antagonize Russian citizens, even if they are minorities. Nor can he say he’s outraged by ethnic crime because this is bound to antagonize young constituencies in Russia.”
“There is no good solution,” she said. “It is a real, serious problem. And it will not go away – [nationalism] is by far the biggest theme that brings the Russian people together.”
The Levada Center, Sova and Golos are supported by the the National Endowment for Democracy. Two of the NED’s core institutes – the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute – have provided training and helped produce voter education videos for Golos.