Loss of trust in Russia's Putin permanent: study

Russia's President Vladimir Putin looks on during his meeting with Igor Sechin, the CEO of state-controlled Russian oil giant Rosneft, in Putin's Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, on October 22, 2012. AFP PHOTO / POOL/ SERGEY PONOMAREV

MOSCOW: The loss of popular confidence in Russian President Vladimir Putin is permanent and will feed into new mass protests in the future, a leading Russian think-tank said in a report on Wednesday.

The Centre for Strategic Research -- which in the past has made reports for the government -- said that a revolutionary overthrow of the authorities was impossible, but the weakening of the anti-Putin protest movement was temporary.

The study, based on focus groups in different cities and across all sections of society as well as polls, said the population was disappointed with Putin's failure in the last years to move beyond repeated promises to achievements.

"The fall in Putin's rating is not only because of the irritated reaction in society to his PR-stunts and his political rhetoric. A lack of new positive results means his past political merits are quickly forgotten," the study said.

"The falling confidence in the authorities has fundamental causes and is the transitional point between the dying ideology of Putin-era stability and the ideologies that are replacing it."

After fraud-tainted parliamentary elections in December 2011, Russia saw its first series of mass protests of the Putin era which shook the authorities after the strongman's inauguration for a third Kremlin term in May 2012.

Since then, the opposition has further fractured and the protest movement lost momentum. But the study argued that against the background of Putin's falling popularity, fast social changes and increased Internet use, the protests will be back.

"The weakening of the Moscow protests is a temporary phenomenon linked to the processes of reshaping the movement," said the report which was commissioned by the Committee of Civic Initiatives of reformist ex-finance minister Alexei Kudrin.

Putin can no longer top-up his rating with PR-stunts at a time when the Internet is becoming the main source of information in Russia and the middle class no longer trusts state television propaganda, the study said.

It said that it is unrealistic to expect a "protest-revolutionary scenario" in Russia due to the passivity of even those less well-off in society.

"But the rise of the legitimacy in society (of such a scenario) increases the sensitivity towards potential trigger mechanisms for mass protests, one of which could be another wave of economic crisis," it said.





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