Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, December 05, 2011

Growth for votes

The Chinese rulers must be looking at this Russian example and worrying even more about maintaining economic growth.

This article from last week predicted the dismal results for United Russia in yesterday's election.

In Quiet Part of Russia, Putin’s Party Loses Steam
It was a grim-faced crowd that gathered last week at the Palace of Culture in this village, making its way past decrepit housing blocks, broken streetlights and a statue of Lenin.

The governor had driven in from the regional capital, and detachments of pretty girls in blue smocks were handing out flags for United Russia, the party that serves as an extension of the Kremlin’s power.

Workers for United Russia, the country's main political party, helped prepare Arsenyevo for a visit by Gov. Vladimir S. Gruzdev, a rising political star.

But the villagers were not in a holiday mood. They wanted to complain…

United Russia can no longer count on voters in places like Tula, an industrial region about 120 miles south of Moscow where many residents say that their quality of life has stopped rising… With competition all but eliminated, Russia’s political system depends heavily on its leaders’ popularity to provide legitimacy. As winter settles in, that no longer feels assured…

An array of pay raises and public projects have been announced in recent weeks. Vladimir S. Gruzdev, a rising political star who was installed as governor in August, holds marathon town hall meetings reminiscent of reality television, dressing down local apparatchiks like a populist Donald Trump. Arsenyevo has only 4,900 residents, but they got three and a half hours with Mr. Gruzdev this month. They then scattered into the dark, some impressed, some skeptical…

In an interview afterward, Mr. Gruzdev said these were routine outings by a new governor, and unrelated to the elections. He acknowledged, however, that his popularity was helping the party…

In any case, he says, the authorities have little to fear from the parliamentary elections.

The real hazard will come months from now, when all the posters have been taken down and an already bitter electorate faces stark economic realities, Alexei V. Makarkin, an analyst with the Center for Political Technologies in Moscow said. The campaign season has uncovered “something happening in our society, a very important process,” he argued, as Russians — people accustomed to 7 percent growth rates — reassess Mr. Putin and United Russia through an increasingly critical lens.

“People have the expectation that at least things won’t be worse,” he said. “And it will probably be worse.”

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