Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, July 26, 2013

Recreating Putin

Somehow, back in June, I missed this. Luckily, Kevin James who teaches in California didn't and posted a link to it in his blog, AHS Comparative Government. In case you missed both the original and Kevin's referral, here's a repeat.

Oh, poor Putin, he's like the ringmaster without a permanent circus. He might well wish he had the structures of the old Soviet Union and the Communist Party. Then he wouldn't have to keep creating organizations and structures to prop up his governing.

Battles over the river: Even a relaunched political movement may not lift Vladimir Putin’s ratings
JUNE 12th is Russia Day, celebrating its emergence from the Soviet Union as a sovereign state…

Vladimir Putin appeared on a gleaming red podium to staged chants of “People, Russia, Putin”. The occasion was a relaunch of the All Russia Popular Front, a loosely defined movement set up two years ago to assist his return to the presidency and left dormant since then. In a ceremony more like a corporate Christmas party than a political congress, Mr Putin was unanimously declared the movement’s leader. The idea, just days after he announced his divorce, is to confirm a union between Mr Putin and Russia. But smiles were forced and the national hymn at the end seemed out of tune.

An attempt to reanimate the Popular Front into a genuine political force is in part a result of the declining utility of the ruling United Russia party as a support base for Mr Putin. Labelled the “party of crooks and thieves” by… the opposition, United Russia has become a problem for Mr Putin ever since the December 2011 Duma election when it scored less than 50% despite widespread vote-rigging. Since then its poll rating has fallen to 24%, says the Levada Centre, a pollster.

Igor Malashenko, a former head of the NTV television channel and adviser to Boris Yeltsin, argues that the relaunch of the Popular Front also chimes with moves towards a more personalised rule of the Franco kind, in which a leader appeals directly to the people, sidelining the elite which he deems corrupt and unreliable…

More broadly, the promotion of the Popular Front stems partly from Mr Putin’s need to boost his own legitimacy. Although he has higher support ratings than any of his opponents, he no longer enjoys the solid majority that would make it easy for him to consolidate absolute power. And as the militaristic tone of the Popular Front suggests, he feels he is now at war with both the liberal urban opposition and the West…

Having lost the support of the urban, educated class, Mr Putin has tried to cement his less educated and more conservative electorate by fanning intolerance and anti-Western sentiment.

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