Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Window on Eurasia: United Russia, Medvedev May be in Trouble in Some Regions

Paul Goble

Baku, January 29 – The pro-Kremlin United Russia Party appears likely to do much more poorly in races for regional legislative assemblies than it did in the Duma vote on December 2nd largely because many United Russia governors are unpopular and the center has banned the use of Putin’s image in campaign materials.
In an article in yesterday’s Gazeta, Olga Pavlikova says that polls taken by the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) show that United Russia risks winning 20 percent fewer votes in these elections than it did in the December 2nd Duma vote (http://www.gzt.ru/politics/2008/01/27/220000.html).
Even then, it would remain the dominant party in most of them, but other parties would have a far more significant number of deputies, something that could make these assemblies not only a pulpit for these parties to push their programs but also a breeding ground for the next generation of Russian politicians.
“A highly placed” but anonymous source in the leadership of United Russia told Pavlikova that “the decline of the rating is connected with the fact that this time United Russia candidates were not allowed to use in their agitation the images of Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev” and was forced to use those of the local governors instead.
Many of them are extremely unpopular, Valery Khomyakov, the director of the Council of National Strategy, told the journalist that among the most unpopular governors were in Rostov, Ulyanovsk, the Altai kray, Yaroslavl, and Ingushetia and that United Russia could be expected to do poorly there.
Meanwhile, Levada Center analyst Aleksey Grazhdanskiy suggested in a comment to “Gazeta” that if United Russia were allowed to use Putin’s image, then its losses in these elections would be much lower and certainly “not exceed seven to ten percent” even in places where the governors are disliked.
But another poll, this one conducted by the Caucasus Times information agency in Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia, finds that while Vladimir Putin remains quite popular and United Russia will garner the largest share of the vote, Putin’s handpicked successor is extremely unpopular (http://www.caucasustimes.com/article.asp?id=13645).
Asked who they would like to see as president of Russia, 43 percent of the residents surveyed in this North Caucasus city named Putin. Eleven percent said Sergei Ivanov, 10 percent Dmitriy Kozak, seven percent Viktor Zubkov, and six percent Boris Gryzlov.
Only five percent said they backed Dmitriy Medvedev.
Despite those feelings, 39 percent said they would vote for United Russia in the regional legislative elections, far more than the 18 percent now backing the Communists and 11 percent supporting Just Russia. Only seven percent said they backed Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democratic Party and four percent back the Patriots of Russia.
Most Vladikavkaz residents expressed skepticism about the elections. Two-thirds of them told the pollsters that the December 2nd parliamentary elections did not have any influence on their lives, with only one in every 100 suggesting that it had had a positive impact there.
And looking ahead, 60 percent of them said that they did not believe that the outcome of the presidential race would have any impact. But in the North Caucasus as the reporting of the December poll showed, these numbers and those that officials will report may have little relationship to each other.

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