Russians are not buying Putin's plans for the 2012 presidency
Yesterday we commented on the launch of Putin 3.0 and its likely impact on Russia’s economy. One salient feature was that the deal between Medvedev and Putin, whilst receiving a joyous assent within the party, left the rest of the country mostly unmoved. Everyone had long expected a job swap between the president and his prime minister.
What the headlines tell us today is that most Russians are not only unsurprised - they’re also furiously unimpressed. The backroom deal has not gone down well with the usually docile political establishment: it’s not only Medvedev’s allies that feels betrayed by what they see as a capitulation from their liberal champion; it’s also his potential rivals and future colleagues, who feel cheated in their hopes for the top jobs.
More importantly, the Moscow street barometer reveals that the average citizens are not buying it either. You might expect they would welcome Putin’s return in the Kremlin: his two presidential mandates were concomitant with a decade of economic boom and a near-double expansion of purchasing power. But entrenched corruption and gaping inequalities, which he did little to reduce, have also frustrated a middle class whose aspirations have grown in parallel to their economic well-being. Russians are no longer content with political stability and consumption - they want a say in the country’s public life. So they feel cheated too.
With businessmen, politicians and citizens all denouncing the move as a ‘political farce’, it looks like Putin 3.0 is not going to be an easy sell. The prime minister would be well advised to rework on his pitch.