Friday, August 17, 2018

Russian Anger at Pension Plan Not Dissipating But Increasingly Directed at Putin Personally, Shelin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 17 – Many commentators expected that anger among Russians over the government’s plan to raise pension ages would gradually dissipate as they came to the realization that this latest indignity was something they had no choice but to accept, Sergey Shelin says. Instead, it is intensifying and lead to declining approval ratings for Putin and other leaders.

            The announcement of the pension plan sent approval ratings for Russian leaders down sharply, the Rosbalt commentator says. They they appeared to plateau as Russians waited for Putin to explain what was going on and possibly soften the blow given what he has said about pensions before (

                But Putin didn’t come out with an explanation: he has remained more or less silent. And as a result, his ratings and those of other government leaders have begun to fall again, an indication that anger about the pension plan remains high and that it is now spreading to Putin and the Russian government. 

                In some respects, the declines have not been all that radical, Shelin says; but they appear more meaningful because they “are occurring at a time of a complete absence of new events, decisions of even ideas” that might lead people to focus on other issues or adapt as many had expected them to earlier.

            Neither the regime nor its chief have done any of the things many expected them to do, and Russians want some very specific answers to their problems. Because these have not been forthcoming from the top, Russians are asking why and beginning to blame Putin and the regime for failing to provide them. 

            The regime is slated to go into “counterattack” mode on August 21 when there will be hearings about the pension plan.  But no one is expecting much from these because the powers that be will insist that public participants talk about how to make the government plan better rather than demand that it be scrapped.

            That may not work well this time around, Shelin continues, pointing to the anger that has been expressed about Vyacheslav Volodin’s suggestion that if the population doesn’t approve the government’s pension plan, then perhaps there won’t be any pensions at all, a Marie Antoinette statement if ever there were.

            And consequently, the commentator says, there is a growing possibility that the August 21 measure “will get out of control,” something that the regime will seek to hide given its control of the media but that people will find out about and be even more angry as a result.

            Shelin continues: “The reverse side of our complete centralization is the indifference, incompetence and inability to respond to changing circumstances by people even occupying the highest links of the vertical. The leader has constructed a system in which none of his subordinates is authorized to think for himself and cannot free him from the responsibility for even one decision.”

            Thus, Russians are now blaming Putin because he has made it clear he is responsible for everything even if in actual fact he is not.

            “Putin’s silence,” Shelin concludes, “is thus inevitably viewed by the masses as his rejection of the role he has assumed. And from that flow the continuing losses of his standing in the polls. He won’t be able to [stay silent] until the final adoption of the pension law. He is going to have to begin to speak sooner than that.”

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