Staunton, October 26 – As a result of a decline in social well-being, the weakening of the position of United Russia, and the increasing strength of populist politicians, a Minchenko Consulting study says, “Russia has fallen under an anti-establishment wave” like those which have already engulfed Great Britain with Brexit and the US with the victory of Donald Trump.
That development, the group says in a 28-page paper entitled The New Political Reality and the Risks of an Anti-Elite Wave in Russia based on a poll and a series of focus groups (minchenko.ru/netcat_files/userfiles/AntiEliteMC.pdf) means that Russia now faces a rising tide of political struggle other than via elections, including protests and even revolution. Cf. znak.com/2018-10-25/razocharovanie_naseleniya_i_ugroza_revolyucii_vyshel_novyy_doklad_ob_antielitoy_voyne_v_rossii
“We encountered the Brexit effect,” the study says, “when the communication strategy of the authorities which had worked earlier has failed” under the impact of “populist attitudes and the popularity of populist political projects.” They then propose a series of measures to slay “’the dragon of populism’” ranging from censorship and force to adopting populist rhetoric.
More Russians are now dissatisfied with life than satisfied, 52 percent to 45 percent, Minchenko Consulting says. The standard of living is falling, social supports are weaking, prices and taxes are going up, corruption is widespread, and regional and social stratification is increasing, it continues.
What Russians had viewed as “’stability,’” the report says, they now are inclined to view as “stagnation.” They are increasingly apathetic, but they also want to express their unhappiness via elections. But 42 percent say that “none of the existing political parties expresses their interests” so they have no channel in that sphere.
That lack of representation within the party system in turn is leading to the growth of protest activity, Minchenko Consulting suggests. Up to now, this protest is about very narrow issues and is territorially dispersed. But with time, it may become more generalized and more united across the country.
As that happens, the experts who compiled the report say, the federal center will either have to “create a new party” to draw off the protesters or “carry out an institutional reform of the entire political party system as a whole” lest the protests become increasingly powerful and lead to the formation of a new party “’from below’” that could challenge the powers that be.
The Minchenko expers say that there are several possible scenarios by which this could happen: the most likely of which is “the return of party blocs” that would allow “the rebranding of United Russia. But there could also be the formation of new parties on the left and right or from the regions.
If nothing changes in the next two or three years, the report warns, Russia will approach “an inert scenario” in which the existing parliamentary parties will “slowly die” but one where the opportunities for the formation of new parties will be extremely limited. That could lead to the rise of more independent parties and major losses for the party of power.
In the worst case, the current parties could find their influence reduced to nothing; and the population would turn to “non-electoral forms of political struggle” that the powers that be would have to come up with various means to counter.
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