Staunton, March 11 – Voting in the Nenets Autonomous District is already taking place, and preliminary results show Vladimir Putin winning only 40 percent of the 6,000 votes cast, landing the incumbent president in a virtual tie with KPRF candidate Pavel Grudinin, according to a Russian blogger who uses the screen name “Kremlin File.”
According to this blogger’s account, this has created “panic” it the Kremlin, all the more so since Grudinin was a problem of the Kremlin’s own creation. Neither the Presidential Administration nor Grudinin expected him to do well, and so both have been very surprised (zen.yandex.ru/media/kremlin/pervye-rezultaty-golosovaniia-v-kremle-vocarilas-panika-5aa0ab2100b3dd213e65b919).
“Kremlin File” says that “the situation in the country is such that any new face appearing in the political arena attracts attention. And an individual with ‘leftist’ views and a positive assessment of Stalin becomes doubly interesting. Thus, despite the fact that the results of the election are predetermined, people have believed in Grudinin.
The Presidential Administration should have used various opportunities to disqualify the KPRF candidate – he certainly gave them enough – but it waited too long and doing so now would make Putin look weak and fearful and raise questions in the West about the legitimacy of the elections.
And by not doing so, they have not only created potential embarrassment for themselves but set the stage for challenging the elections since everyone can see that under the rules, Grudinin should have been excluded. Indeed, that possibility too is a worry for the Presidential Administration.
New polls show that Putin is doing worse in the major cities and that people there at least did not react as he intended to his militaristic March 1 speech. Many Russians have supported him on the principle that at least there isn’t a war. The Russian president, Kremlin File continues, has now made that situation uncertain.
And polls show that what has happened in the Nenets district may be replicated elsewhere. In Tomsk oblast, for example, a survey found that Putin and Grudinin were tied and both had less than 50 percent of the vote. If that pattern holds, there would have to be a second round.
There is no way to confirm whether what “Kremlin File” says is true or whether it is a story put out in this way to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. But even if it is the latter, this underscores how soft Putin’s support currently is and how much Russians would really like to choose someone else.