Domestic support wanes for Putin as pension policy takes its toll, analyst says

putin dangerous

  • The party associated most closely with Russian President Vladimir Putin has lost support.
  • A new pension policy, fronted by Putin, has angered may Russian voters.
  • One forecaster has suggested new bases of power could spring up away from the Kremlin.By

Russia’s main political party performed poorly in September’s local elections, losing out in four regional governor run-offs.

While not directly connected to President Vladimir Putin, United Russia (UR) is the ruling party of the Russian Federation and holds the most seats in the country’s parliament, the State Duma. UR supports the president’s policies and is chaired by Putin ally and prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev.

But, as the local elections revealed, the party is losing public support that it once enjoyed.

“People [in Russia] are starting to be aware more that their standard of living has gone backwards relative to 2014,” Daragh McDowell, the principal analyst for Europe and Central Asia at Verisk Maplecroft, told CNBC on Wednesday.

McDowell said an ongoing sense that living standards have been slipping was enough to spark real anger when the Russian government announced changes to retirement ages earlier this year.

On Wednesday, Putin signed into law a bill that raised the retirement age for women from 55 to 60, and from 60 to 65 for men. In a country where the average life expectancy for a man is only 67, the decision has led to street protests.

McDowell said Putin himself had been forced to throw his weight behind the changes.

“There has been a political calculation that he is still the most popular politician in Russia, still the most influential, and he has to carry this ball over the line. But it is burning up a lot of his political capital,” McDowell said.

The analyst added that until now United Russia and Putin were viewed as “semi-detached,” but now they are linked in the public imagination as jointly driving an austerity policy.

Putin’s personal approval rating, according to polling firm Levada, remains at a 67 percent majority, but that number has dipped sharply from as recently as April when 82 percent of Russians said they approved of the president’s work.

Putin won his latest six-year term in March, ensuring his grip on power will last until the next set of elections in 2024. But Russia’s economy remains in low gear, expanding at a rate of around 2.5 percent.

It is this slow growth and an increasing lack of political control that has led McDowell to suggest that the Kremlin’s influence over the vast country could be on the wane. The analyst further suggested that Putin’s “vertical of power,” where there is a direct chain of command down to regional governors, will soon no longer be viable.

McDowell said that while a truly federal Russia looks improbable any time soon, it is easy to imagine more power being spread to political and business networks based in Siberia and the Far East, where they can be independently funded by oil and minerals.

“If the regions can muster the strength to force a new deal with the center, then we can ask what their priorities are after that and how competent they can be in fulfilling them,” he said, before adding: “Those are questions that are difficult to answer right now, but it is a possible future.”

McDowell said in a September note that should Putin’s power dwindle within Russia, then the “investing and operating environment will become increasingly fragmented across different regions.”

The analyst said that those investors seeking to do business in the country would need to look beyond the Kremlin and forge new relationships with regional elites and governors.

On Putin’s eventual succession, McDowell said it was intentional that there was no obvious candidate at this stage who might disrupt his image as the only man for the job.

“Even when we talk about potential candidates, we are still in the very early stages. It is not like (Barack) Obama in 2005 when you could say, ‘Oh, that’s a guy who might be able to do it.’ Nobody has set out their stalls.”



  • Arzna

    KGB and Democracy don’t fit well together. Finally the Russians realized who the real Putin is

  • Niemals

    Now we know that also that the second Salisbury suspect in the Skripal attack is a ‘decorated’ (by Putin) officer, however according to “The Russian embassy to the UK also dismissed the allegations, stating that “There have already been reports that the Home Office and Metropolitan Police would not comment on these [Bellingcat’s] “speculations”. This is exactly the case when we should follow the example of our British colleagues.”

    In late September, the group claimed that Ruslan Boshirov is actually Colonel Anatoly Chepiga, who served in an elite commando unit and also received the decoration of Hero of Russia in 2014. Bellingcat’s supposed identification relied on what it called a resemblance between an old photo of a man presumed to be Chepiga and a younger image of Borshirov.

    This was also dismissed by Peskov, who said that Russian databases contained no information about Chepiga or about him being awarded the medal.”

    Hindler produces so-called facts for her own purposes, just like her hero Putin.
    Take this well know photo manipulation from 1938 with the help of a modern photo, while in reality there was no modern flag in 1949 – only this “Ink Flag” of 1949.

  • Niemals

    Russian media blow away accusations and revelations about GRU spies in western countries, but Kremlin and Putin are more worried than what they want to give up.

    The release of four GRU agents from the Netherlands last spring was announced on Thursday.
    On the same day, the United States announced that the four plus three more agents are now called for. And last night, the investigative journalist group Bellingcat argued that the true identity of the other Russian prosecutor is being accused of attempting to kill the double agent Sergei Skripal in March.

    The Russian military intelligence service, GRU, has received a lot of unwanted publicity around the world in the past week.

    For Kremlin, it is a far greater problem that people around Russia lose their living standards. It’s the difficult everyday life, corruption, and the unimaginable wealth of the elite, which has got Putin’s popularity figures to sink. No claims about Russian agents. As if neither the United States nor the United Kingdom would spy on us, people say, certainly with some fog.

    Nevertheless, it is enough that the Kremlin, and Putin personally, are slightly shaken by recent revelations. Putin’s basic plan was to “make Russia big again”; a country that may not be loved around the world, but at least respected, or (if necessary) just feared.

    But the news of Russian campaign campaigns, military provocations, support for the regime in Syria and the war in Ukraine, along with the revelations of spying and assassination in Europe, are remarkably loveless and cause irritation rather than respect or fear in the outside world.

  • Niemals

    The never ending story – now Putin attacks former spy but angrily denies Kremlin ordered his poisoning, what a joke.

    Putin has called the former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal a “scumbag” and a “traitor”, as he angrily denied allegations that the Kremlin ordered his poisoning with a nerve agent.

    Speaking at an energy forum in Moscow, the Russian president accused the west of portraying Skripal, who was poisoned with novichok in Salisbury, as an innocent victim.

    “I see that some of your colleagues are pushing the theory that Mr Skripal was almost some kind of human rights activist,” Putin said following a question from a moderator.

    “He was simply a spy. A traitor to the motherland. There is such a concept – a traitor to the motherland. He was one of those.
    This former KGB officer, has angrily decried “traitors” before. He has said he cannot forgive disloyalty and “traitors will kick the bucket”.

    Of Skripal, he said on Wednesday: “He’s simply a scumbag, that’s all.”