Friday, January 24, 2020

Russians will React with Increasing Anger to Constitutional Changes Once They See They Won't Benefit from Them, Shelin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 21 – Russians care little about the current proposals to change the constitution but they care a great deal about whether their rulers will bring justice to them, Sergey Shelin says. And when they realize that all the current discussions are “only a cover for extending Putin’s power, the prestige of the regime and its head will fall.”

            “The only question is whether this will happen before the ‘general vote’ scheduled in April or after it when the scenario of this operation already will be impossible to conceal” and the reality that the Russian people will again have been deceived by their leaders, the Rosbalt commentator says (

            The key reality is that all these changes are Putin’s “personal project. Not one of the leading institutions which are supposedly to be reformed asked for these modifications. For them, they were just as much a surprise as for ordinary citizens.”  And they aren’t really about transition: Note that Putin has not said a word about that in the last days.

            There may be a few people, perhaps several hundred, who actually care about these reforms, but most do not.  Overwhelmingly Russians view this as the latest manipulation by the elite and they ask themselves whether it will lead to more social justice for themselves or simply be used by the authorities to prevent any moves in that direction.

            Thus, the reaction of ordinary Russians is either indifference or anger. That Russian “has not read the Constitution, doesn’t consider it to have value, isn’t asking that it be changed, and does not see any link between it and his own circumstances.” For the elite, the best thing is for all this to be done quickly. The longer it drags on, the more questions Russians will ask. 

            “In spite of the popular myth,” Shelin continues, “the people are not at all indifference to the legitimacy of the power of the leader.” But they do not measure that by “constitutional categories.” Instead, they rate it in terms of whether they are being treated well and whether those in power are trying to pull the wool over their eyes.

            They were not happy about the way in which Putin and Medvedev exchanged offices in 2011, and the situation in Russia today is much worse – and they are thus more critical of any appearance as now of manipulations from which only those in power will benefit but not the people in general.

            Those in power who engage in such manipulations may remain in power for a long time, but with each passing year and especially each passing case of such manipulative behavior, they lose support in the population. On the one hand, that makes their rule more dependent on coercion. And on the other, it leads them to make geopolitical moves to try to recover backing.

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