Staunton, May 26 – The collapse in the share of Russians who say they trust Vladimir Putin to make decisions from 47.4 percent a year ago to 31.7 percent now, the lowest level in more than a decade, has prompted the SerpomPo Telegram Channel to say “Putin is in free fall” and that further declines can be expected (t.me/SerpomPo/3216).
The telegram channel even sees the pictures of the Kremlin leader falling while playing hockey as symbolic and makes two further points: If these are the figures reported by VTsIOM which has a track record of being close to the Kremlin and therefore can be expected to make Putin look as good as possible, what are the real ones?
And if the 31.7 percent is an overall figure, what must it be for those protesting in Yekaterinburg, Petersburg, Chelyabinsk and Murmansk, not to mention many other places, or for pensioners or for the enormous number of Russians who have become poorer over the last six years of his watch?
How much longer are these millions going to put up with their futures being stolen by Putin and his cronies? Is the time approaching when they will say “’Enough,’” SerpomPo asks. “Of will they like their Soviet grandparents or parents be patient and wait until ‘the body is carried out?’”
In pointing to such long-standing Russian patience, SerpomPo is qualifying its own headline; but there are two other reasons for qualifying it as well. On the one hand, Putin still controls the agenda and can take actions that will boost his rating. In the past, those have involved military action, making this poll result a matter of concern not just for him.
And on the other hand, as opposition leader Mikhail Khodorkovsky points out, while Putin’s numbers are low for an authoritarian leader in control of the media, they are not significantly lower than those a leader of a democratic society would consider perfectly reasonable (echo.msk.ru/programs/year2019/2431655-echo/).
One should therefore not overread them as the SerpomPo headline almost certainly does, but such reporting has consequences all its own. Once people talk about a leader’s failures in this way, it is almost a repetition of the Chekhovian principle that if a gun is displayed in the first act, it must go off before the end of the third.