Thursday, August 26, 2021

Putin Not Buying Votes But Seeking to Limit Negative Popular Reaction to Election Results, Shelin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 25 – Many commentators are suggesting that Vladimir Putin’s announcement that he will be distributing one-time cash payments to various groups in the population is a typical attempt to buy votes, but Sergey Shelin says that is a mistake: Everyone knows how the elections are going to turn out. Putin is trying to block any protests about that.

            The Kremlin has already decided what the results will be and it knows that these won’t please everyone, the Rosbalt commentator says. And that in turn means that the real challenge for the regime now is not getting votes but dealing with how the population will react after the results are announced (

            By providing one-time payments now, the Kremlin leader hopes to soften if not eliminate the anger in the population about the declines in the Russian standard of living over the past several years without modifying the social support network in ways that would cost the government real money but might do some good.

            Putin has consistently opposed spending more money on social programs. And so when he wants to appear generous, he uses one-time payments, small and large, that don’t involve increasing the government’s spending on the population. Moreover, he has repeatedly taken back from Russians in social program cuts whatever he has given out in such one-time payments.

            That is likely to happen again. But the Kremlin leader clearly hopes that Russians will be pleased with the one-time payments now, won’t think about the prospects that he will continue to cut social welfare programs in the future, and so will be less willing to protest the election results that he has arranged.

            This doesn’t mean, Shelin argues, that the elections are irrelevant. A few opposition candidates may break through especially at the local level. But the overall fix is in. And that means Putin isn’t worried about what percentages his preferred candidates and parties will get but only about how the population will respond. 

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