A fascinating new poll has has just been published by Levada, the most respected pollster remaining in Putin’s Russia.
The poll reveals that if a presidential election were held tomorrow, only 29% of Russians would be committed to voting for Putin to take a fourth term. By contrast, a whopping 57% of the electorate would either plan not to vote or would have no idea who to vote for. It’s conclusive proof that Putin simply does not have the country behind him.
Putin’s level of support, well less than one-third of the country, is roughly the same today as it was back in 2009 during the depths of the worst financial crisis of the Putin era. That’s hardly surprising, given that Russia is currently headed into what the Kremlin admits will be a decade or more of economic stagnation and what could well be double-dip recession.
The poll shows that the Putin regime has been successful in its efforts to grind down its opponents. Communist Gennady Zyuganov, for example, the leading Kremlin challenger at the ballot box ever since the fall of the USSR, has fallen from 12% support in the late 1990s to just 5% today. No other potential candidate polls even as high as 4%. Alexei Navalny, disqualified from running by his criminal conviction, isn’t even in the conversation. But this support hasn’t moved to Putin, it has simply become disenchanted.
The same thing occurs when reviewing Russian attitudes towards Putin’s party of power, United Russia. Support for the party is even lower than it was in 2009, again less than one-third of Russians embracing it. But the Communist Party has been ground down to a nub, receiving just 10% support whereas in 2002 it was at 17%. Only the parties of Prokhorov and Zhirinovksy poll better than 2% support. But 46% of Russians say that if the election were held today they either wouldn’t vote or would have no idea who to vote for. In an epic humiliation, Navalny’s party polls just 1% support, clearly indicting his total collapse.
So while Putin has succeeded in poisoning all opposition candidates and parties, such that his support remains vastly greater than any of them, he is increasingly alienating a large block of citizens from the entire electoral process. His policies and practices have given rise to appalling cynicism, which will only encourage Russia to be more corrupt and less progressive as it enters a period when it can little afford to be either.
The Russian belief that there is no alternative to Putin is also very much inconsistent with Putin’s mortality: Who will run Russia when Putin is no more? Putin himself seems to believe this notion as well, just as Lenin and Stalin and Brezhnev did before him. That is why Putin is not even attempting to groom a successor. Putin likely understands that grooming a successor would create the opportunity for someone to challenge his power, and that’s not something he’s willing to risk. But it creates extremely dark clouds over Russia’s future to know that upon Putin’s demise the country will descend into utter chaos.