Staunton, January 2 – Now that Russians feel the economy has hit bottom and that growth is going to follow, they are running out of patience with Vladimir Putin, the Russian government, and businesses and beginning to make more demands on all of these institutions for better treatment soon, Valery Fedorov, the head of the VTsIOM polling agency says.
“’We were patient and waited,” the pollster says. Now, the regime says things are getting better and the population expects that they will be given more than officials are talking about. That is their “chief emotion” now, and it means that domestic affairs rather than foreign policy is likely to dominate the upcoming election (ura.news/articles/1036273461).
According to Fedorov, “Putin understands this perfectly” and, although he has been a beneficiary of foreign tensions, knows quite well that the immediate needs of Russians are not now going to be satisfied with the Donbass or with Syria. And unless a new crisis arises, he knows he must focus on domestic affairs.
Russians today, the VTsIOM head continues, “are now more interested when in our country economic growth will be felt, when the salaries of those paid by the government will rise, when pensions will grow and when subsidies of various kinds are going to go up.” And they are increasingly tired of waiting for answers.
In his interview with the URA.ru news agency, Fedorov touched on a number of other issues concerning the upcoming presidential election. He said that people are not tired of Putin and do not view him as old. “When we ask people to give his age, they all give numbers less than it actually is,” the pollster says.
Participation in the election matters a great deal because it is the basis of legitimacy in the Russian system, he says. Many in the Kremlin were shocked that participation fell below 50 percent in the elections last year; and they view the rate in 2012 – roughly two thirds of all voters – to be a floor below which participation must not sink.
That presents a problem because older Russians vote more regularly than younger ones do, Fedorov points out, and the older ones are dying out at the rate of two million a year while seven million younger ones are entering the electorate. Because the latter as less likely to vote, there is a secular trend toward declining participation.
For participation to be as high or higher than in 2012 will require major efforts by the authorities, Fedorov suggests. It will also require that Putin and the other candidates mobilize their supporters by playing to their basic emotions. In the past, Putin relied on their fears; now, he must promise some solutions to their problems if he wants participation to be high.