Friday, February 17, 2012

Russia: "Why Is Putin Winning?"

SOURCE Russia Insights

Oscar Aubert
, political scientist and expert on West Europe, Russia and CIS, has stated that Putin remains the most popular politician in Russia despite large-scale protests in Moscow.

"The European, and, in particular, the French press often describe the situation in Russia as "Russians protest against Putin's policy," "Russians are outraged by the election frauds," etc. But let's ask ourselves how many protesters, dissatisfied, or, as people now call them, "angry" Russians there are. A fair answer to this question will make many people look at the situation in Russia from a completely different angle.

"As a starting point we take the results of opinion poll, obtained by sociological research organization Levada Center. Unlike two other companies that also specialize in national polling, Levada Center is a private company that doesn't receive governmental funding; by the way, it regularly receives orders to make sociological studies for the Russian opposition. The survey cited below was conducted on January 20-23, 2012 - the "surprise effect" of the December protests had already passed by that time, the government and the opposition were systematically preparing their supporters for mass actions on February 4.

"Let's start with a question which will allow us to determine "the degree of opposition-intensity" of the Russian society towards Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who is going to retake the presidential chair on March 4: "Do you support the slogans "Russia without Putin" and "Putin should leave"? 6% of respondents gave the answer "definitely support", another 15% - "rather support". As a result 21% of Russians can be attributed to Vladimir Putin's opponents of various degrees of radicalism. On the other hand, the responses "rather don't support" and "don't support" were given by 29% and 32% respectively. It means that 61% of Russians can be attributed to Vladimir Putin's supporters of various degrees of loyalty. 17% found difficulty in replying.

"On a more specific question "Do you generally approve or disapprove of Vladimir Putin's activity as the Russian Prime Minister?", 64% of Russians gave the answer "approve", and only 34% answered "don't approve".

"It is obvious that in this case to speak of "a confrontation between the authorities and the people" today in Russia is at least not correct. But the expected victory of Vladimir Putin in the first round is a direct consequence of this sociology.

"Violations of law and/or fraud in the parliamentary elections in the Western and the French media were widely recognized, though of the opposition had a lot of problems with finding convincing evidence. But the Russian media convince us that "Russians protest against unfair elections." Yes, those who gather at the opposition rallies, protest against election frauds. But what about the rest? Again we turn to Levada Center's study which aked the Russians: "do you think that the elections in the State Duma of the Russian Federation, December 4, 2011 were fair?"

"The answer "fair" was given by 8% of Russians, the answer "rather fair" - by 35%. On the other "pole" are 23% that believe that the elections were "rather unfair", 14% gave the answer "unfair". 19% of respondents found difficulty in replying. Thus, the majority, though a relative one (43%), to one degree or another, believe that the parliamentary elections were fair.

"To sum up, it is necessary to mention once again - actively protesters, "angry" or even ones simply dissatisfied with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's policy, Russians are a minority. They are, of course, can't be ignored, their voice should be heard by the authorities. But exactly to the extent that is respective to their share in the Russian society. After all, the democracy that we so willingly want to teach the Russians, first of all, is the will of the majority. And not the diktat of the minority, even if we, the West, like this protesting minority more than the majority of Russians that vote for Putin."

Oscar Aubert is a sociologist, political scientist, an expert for West Europe, Russia and CIS