Staunton, May 11 – In the clearest indication yet that even Vladimir Putin doesn’t believe in the much-ballyhooed 86 percent support his backers claim, his Presidential Administration is currently soliciting ideas on ways to keep in his column the roughly 20 percent of the electorate who say they support Putin but are judged to be “vacillating” on that point.
Znak journalist Yekaterina Vinokurova writes that “the Presidential Administration is collecting proposals about work with ‘vacillating loyalists,’ the number of whom may be up to 20 percent of the total number of voters,” according to two sources close to the Kremlin (znak.com/2017-05-10/kreml_ichet_put_k_serdcu_koleblyuchihsya_storonnikov_putina).
The Presidential Administration has contacted expert groups ranging “from Aleksey Kudrin’s Committee on Civic Initiative to the recently established Expert Institute of Social Research under Andrey Shutov,” they say. Most agree that Putin’s base electorate is about 77 percent and that those counted above that number are “vacillating” and might shift.
Some of the vacillating are objecting to specific local issues; others are simply longing for a clearer picture of the future or more focus on foreign policy; and still others want to see something new in Russia given that Putin has been in power for so long, the two sources continue.
One analyst with whom Vinokurova said, political scientist Abbas Gallyamov said that Putin like any candidate must first secure his base and then focus on how to reach out to others. Doing the first comes almost naturally because it largely requires continuing to do what has been done; doing the second is more challenging.
“One must understand why they are vacillating, what blocks them from joining your base and then formulating a message” that will reach them. But according to Gallyamov, Putin’s “main problem” isn’t one of content. Few Russians see an alternative to Putin, but the length of time Putin has been in power inevitably has given rise to desire to see something new.
The electorate wants variety and change, he says. “Therefore, the main task of the Presidential Administration is to think up something that will reduce this desire for renewal to a minimum. Typically, foreign threats are used to do that … [But] the problem is that people have had enough of foreign policy and the search for enemies hasn’t generated much emotion.”
“If the powers that be now begin to frighten the electorate, the risk will increase that some one of the competitors having organized a demonstratively positive campaign full of hope will take away from Putin an indecent number of votes. So the problem of vacillating loyalists as very serious and does not have obvious solutions.”