Posts Tagged ‘vladimir putin


Polls: Medvedev goes down, Putin remains stable

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s trust and approval ratings have somewhat gone down and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s remained at the previous level in the past month, according to a poll of 1,600 respondents the Levada Center sociological service conducted in 130 populated areas of 45 regions of Russia on June 23-27.Medvedev’s trust rating has declined by five percentage points and the approval rating by three percentage points, with 33% of those polled trusting the president and 66% approving of his work.

Putin’s trust and approval ratings remained at 41% and 69% respectively.

Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu’s trust rating has declined to 11%, putting him in this respect behind Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov (12% each).

The top ten most-trusted policymakers in Russia also include Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia (7%), Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Health and Social Development Minister Tatyana Golikova, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, and A Just Russia party leader Sergei Mironov (5% each).

The poll also showed that only 46% of Russians approve of the government’s work. The number of respondents believing that the things are going in the right direction on the whole has declined to 41% from 44% in the past month.

Just as a month ago, 27% of Russians believe in the government’s ability to improve the state of affairs in the country, 37% do not believe in this, and 33% are undecided.


Are Putin/Medvedev political tensions made up?

If most analysts have witnessed growing tensions between Prime minister Vladimir Putin and president Dmitry Medvedev throughout the last past months, more clever observers suggest it all is a made up and that the “tandem” still perfectly works.

Slowly but surely, the 2011-12 election season in Russia is getting under way. In recent weeks, both President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have made appearances that pundits regard as the beginnings of an election campaign, and analysts are watching closely to determine whether the Tandem will remain in place after March 2012.

On May 6, during a congress of the ruling United Russia party, Mr Putin announced the creation of the All-Russia Popular Front. This organisation will be made up of trade unions, business associations, youth groups and Kremlin-friendly NGOs and is intended to improve United Russia’s popularity by giving it more of a connection to ordinary people.

The new organisation will include “everyone who is united in their common desire to strengthen our country, united by the idea of finding optimal solutions to the challenges before us,” Mr Putin said.

President Medvedev immediately gave the pundits reason to speculate that there was discord between the Kremlin and the White House when he declined to endorse the concept of the Popular Front, saying in an interview only that he understood the reasons behind the move.

Competition is vital

“I understand the motives of a party that wants to keep its influence over the country. Such an alliance is in accordance with the law and justified from an electioneering point of view,” he said in televised comments.

Mr Medvedev also speculated that United Russia could not count on a landslide in December’s State Duma elections, saying that competition was vital in a democracy. “No one political force can regard itself as a dominant one, but any force should strive for maximum success,” he said.

The president promoted his own agenda during a lengthy press conference at the Skolkovo Innovation Centre on May 18. Answering questions from an audience of more than 800 journalists, Mr Medvedev commented on topics ranging from modernisation to gubernatorial elections to missile defence. His responses were mostly predictable, but the conference showed him to be comfortable, confident and in command of the issues – a man who could head a successful presidential campaign.

The press conference followed a meeting on May 10 with judicial officials in which the president again pressed for judicial reforms and a strengthening of the court system, and a spring marked by a controversial plan to remove government bureaucrats from the boards of state-owned companies.

Some analysts see Mr Medvedev’s actions as more proof that he is further distancing himself from Vladimir Putin. A process that began with his criticism of the prime minister’s comments on the prison sentences of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, continued with the leadership’s difference of opinion over Nato intervention in Libya, and expanded with the shake-up in corporate boardrooms.

“This is a major development, marking an independent move by Medvedev, touching the interests of influential members of Putin’s team,” said analyst Dmitry Oreshkin, discussing the new policies with Bloomberg.

The theme of the president’s autonomy was noted in his reaction to the formation of Mr Putin’s Popular Front. “Medvedev is trying to demonstrate his independence with those remarks,” Alexei Makarkin, a political analyst with the Centre for Political Technologies, said in an interview with The Moscow Times . “And it looks like the number of similar remarks will be growing soon.”

Analysts who believe that the Tandem is indeed splitting 
believe that the prime minister’s creation of the Popular Front is his way of returning to the presidency.

Testing the Tandem

The political scientist Grigory Golosov said: “If they [establish this new grouping], and there is no reason to think they won’t, then we can say that Vladimir Putin will be nominated precisely by this ‘popular front’ – that is, by all Russians who are for a better life.”

Alexander Venediktov of the radio station Ekho Moskvy agreed. “This story shows us again that Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] certainly has not said ‘No’ to a third presidential term,” he told the BBC.

Those who believe the Tandem will continue past 2012 say that the recent appearances have given both politicians the opportunity to define their different but complementary personas – Mr Medvedev the “modernist” and Mr Putin the “traditionalist” – in the hope that one or the other will appeal to Russia’s increasingly divided voting population.

“Like before, Putin and Medvedev tend to occupy different political niches,” the independent political analyst Stanislav Belkovsky told 
Interfax. “But both men continue to serve their common cause.”

The opposition politician Vladimir Ryzhkov even suggested that the Popular Front initiative was in fact intended to shore up the Tandem. “He [Putin] is attempting to halt rapidly eroding support for the ruling Tandem and the ‘party of power’,” Mr Ryzhkov wrote in an editorial in The Moscow Times .

The television analyst Nikolay Svanidze echoed these comments. “All this doesn’t necessarily mean it is Putin who will stand for president next year. I believe the Tandem has not yet made a final decision regarding who is going to run. If such a front is formed, the current president, Dmitry Medvedev, may use it just as easily. The new platform will make it possible for either of the two candidates to declare that he is backed by a considerable part of the people, not just one party and its voters,” he told Russia Today TV.

Any candidate for the Russian presidency in 2012 may have to pay more attention to the people than previously planned. According to an Levada Centre poll in April, 75pc of Russians are interested in politics. But 83pc of respondents believe that politicians work only to promote their own interests and ignore the needs of voters.


Many questions about Putin’s proposal for “unified civil front”

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has observers scratching their heads over his dramatic appeal to build a “unified civil front” of political parties and social groups to confront an unspecified national dilemma.

The idea sounds baffling since Russia, despite its various issues, does not appear to face a looming crisis that would justify putting aside political differences for the common good. Some experts scoff that the unmentioned emergency is Mr. Putin’s own poll numbers.

Putin, who is widely suspected to be eyeing a return to the presidency, saw his numbers plunge in recent polls and rating for the party he leads, United Russia, also dropped. RELATED: Putin’s marquee moments.

But a few critics warn darkly that Putin may be seeking to reshape Russian political culture into one of forced social unity similar to the former Soviet system, in which all of civil society – including media, trade unions, the church, youth, women’s groups, even sports clubs – were held in captive orbits around the all-powerful ruling party.

“I propose the creation of something that in practical politics is called a unified civil front, an organization to unify the efforts of various political forces ahead of major events of political character,” Putin told a conference of United Russia in the central Russian city of Volgograd last Friday.

‘Fresh ideas, fresh proposals’

The front should recruit into its ranks all organizations and people “who are united by the idea to strengthen our country and by the wish to search for the most optimal ways of solving current problems,” he added. Putin spent much of the long weekend (Monday was Victory Day, a major holiday in Russia) meeting with business and social leaders to test the idea, which would include opening up as much as a third of United Russia’s candidate lists to nonparty members affiliated with the new front.

“United Russia needs an inflow of fresh ideas, fresh proposals, and fresh faces,” he told journalists. Sign up for our daily World Editor’s Picks newsletter. Our best stories, in your inbox. United Russia, the state-backed political behemoth whose membership is packed with officials, has given Putin near undisputed control over most legislatures in Russia for nearly a decade, including a two-thirds majority in the Duma.

But lately its public approval rating has slumped dramatically. The party, which won 67 percent in 2007 Duma elections, was supported by just 43 percent of Russians, according to an April survey by the independent Public Opinion Fund (FOM).

“Putin [who leads United Russia] aims to secure his own position in case of a poor showing by the party in the coming Duma elections,” says Nikolai Petrov, an expert with the Carnegie Center in Moscow. “The idea is to add some fresh faces, so that the candidate list doesn’t just consist of the same old dull bureaucrats and corrupt officials. It’s just an electoral scheme.”


Politics: what is Prokhorov’s game plan?

Is Mikhail Prokhorov defying Vladim Putin’s authority by entering politics? Since Khodorkovsky’s indictment something was clear in Russia: oligarchs make business and Putin makes politics… A new deal in Russian balance of powers?

Mr Prokhorov wants to lead the Pravoye Dyelo party, or Right Cause.

He owns much of Russia’s gold and nickel production, with other interests as diverse as nanotechnology, a hybrid car and the New Jersey Nets basketball club.

The last oligarch to turn politician, Mikhail Khodorkovksy, ended up in prison.

Mr Prokhorov made his money in the chaotic years of Russian privatisation during the 1990s.

His fortune is reportedly worth $22.7bn (£14bn), which puts him among the top three Russian billionaires.

Now he is diversifying beyond business.

Prostitutes allegation

The Right Cause party he has offered to lead strongly supports President Dmitry Medvedev, at a time when there’s mounting speculation that Vladimir Putin wants a return to the presidency.

It was founded just two years ago as a pro-business party promoting free-market reforms, the rule of law and an end to what it calls the “arbitrary rule of corrupt officialdom”.

Mr Prokhorov’s declared aims would be to lead Right Cause to second place in parliamentary elections coming up in December, behind the United Russia party, whose chairman is Vladimir Putin.

United Russia is expected to win the parliamentary elections comfortably, but they are widely seen as a dress rehearsal for the presidential election in March.

Both Prime Minister Putin and President Medvedev are potential contenders for the presidency next time around.

If Mr Prokhorov succeeds in taking over as leader of Right Cause, it will be the first time a Russian business tycoon has taken a prominent role in politics since the imprisonment in 2003 of Mr Khodorkovsky, then head of the Yukos oil giant.

Mr Khodorkovsky’s supporters have always insisted this was punishment for daring to oppose Mr Putin.

Based on his statement today, Mikhail Prokhorov appears to be taking care to avoid posturing as a defiant opponent of the Kremlin.

Right Cause has so far struggled to attract heavyweight leaders in its ranks. Liberals have kept their distance from it, seeing it as too close to the government.

Mr Prokhorov’s business empire is based on the Onexim Group, which has wide variety of interests, with gold and nickel at their core.

In January 2007, he was arrested on suspicion of arranging prostitutes for guests at a party he hosted in the French Alpine resort of Courchevel.

The case was later dismissed, and Mr Prokhorov was cleared


Why will Vladimir Putin win once more in 2012

Vladimir Putin has given Russia’s farmers, blue-collar workers, soldiers, parents and retirees good reasons to want him back in the Kremlin… Many reasons that allow Russians to believe there not yet done with Vladimir Putin.

In a four-hour nationally televised appearance, the prime minister said not a word last week about his plans for next year’s presidential election. The topic has been a subject of fervent debate in recent weeks as President Dmitry Medvedev has shown a desire to stay on for another term.

But by portraying himself as the defender of a strong Russia and making a string of campaign like promises to improve the lives of ordinary people, Mr. Putin sent an unmistakable signal that he intends to reclaim the presidency.

“The nation needs decades of stable and calm development without any sharp movements and ill-conceived experiments” based on liberal policy, Mr. Putin, 58, said during his annual address before parliament.

Mr. Putin, Russia’s president from 2000 to 2008, was barred by the constitution from serving a third consecutive term and groomed Mr. Medvedev to succeed him. Both men have said they will decide together which one of them will run in March 2012, but the decision is understood to be Mr. Putin’s.

The uncertainty seems to suit both of them. The debate over which one will run serves to stimulate interest in the election by creating a pretense of political competition.

The uncertainty, which leaves open the possibility that Mr. Medvedev will remain in the Kremlin, also helps him carry out the mission that Mr. Putin set for him and encourages those in the West who have worked to improve relations with Russia.

Mr. Putin chose the tech-savvy Mr. Medvedev, 13 years his junior, to lead the drive to modernize the Russian economy, still based largely on exports of oil and gas, and tackle spiraling corruption. Mr. Medvedev also presents a friendlier face to the West, as Russia seeks to attract much-needed foreign investment.

Mr. Medvedev’s liberal pronouncements have helped to bring back on board the business community and educated urban elite, who had become disillusioned with Mr. Putin as he established greater state control over the economy and politics.


Will Dmitry Medvedev run for 2012?

Even as Russian President Dmitry Medvedev declared Tuesday that he will soon decide whether to run for a second term in 2012, the resignation of a powerful deputy prime minister from the board of state oil company OAO Rosneft the day before may provide a clue as to whether Mr. Medvedev has any future in politics.

Mr. Medvedev told Chinese media Tuesday ahead of a BRIC summit that he’ll soon decide whether to run in 2012.

Less than two weeks ago, Mr. Medvedev, perceived by many as the weaker partner of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, told key members of Mr. Putin’s government that they would have to leave the boards of the state companies they oversee. He also issued several other orders meant to improve Russia’s bad investment climate.

“It’s extremely important for Medvedev that these objectives are fulfilled. These are things that actually matter,” says Sergei Guriev, rector at Moscow’s New Economic School and a member of the Russian president’s commission on national projects.

Then late Monday, Rosneft said Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, who oversees the country’s oil and gas industry, would leave its board.

As Mr. Medvedev searched for ways to reduce the state’s overbearing role in large, non-transparent companies and in the overall economy, the spotlight must have quickly focused on Mr. Sechin, the oil czar. Long perceived as one of the country’s most powerful men, the staunch Putin ally wasn’t shy about using his post in the government to get things done at Rosneft.

Kremlin watchers said any disobedience or foot-dragging from Mr. Sechin would have been a huge loss of face for the president and cast serious doubt on his political future.

Thus Mr. Medvedev appears to have received a fresh infusion of political clout. Still, he may have moved against the ministers only with the blessing of Mr. Putin. Also, it’s unclear who will replace Mr. Sechin — perhaps another ally of Mr. Putin or a so-called “independent” director.

Several of Mr. Medvedev’s plans last month to improve the investment climate strike at the very heart of what may be driving capital out of the country, such as a deeply unpopular payroll tax increase and the often-flouted rights of minority shareholders. In the words of Mr. Guriev, the Russian president’s adviser, these are things that “matter very much to the average businessman on the street.”

Although it’s not clear how far the president can go in implementing his plans, the prospect of a reform-minded president backed by Mr. Putin’s political influence would no doubt please investors.


US/Russia visas: Putin tricks Joe Biden

Well known for his public gaffes, Joe Biden has been once more fooled. Vladimir Putin tricked him with a proposition to abolish visas between the United States and Russia. Biden first responded it was a good idea before he had to seriously backdowned!

After noting joint projects on the table — cooperation on missile defense and Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization, among others — Mr. Putin cheerily suggested a brand-new idea: abolishing visa requirements between Russia and the United States. The early part of the meeting was featured on Russian television.

Mr. Biden responded “Good idea,” and Mr. Putin seized on the response, saying he hoped Mr. Biden would make the case for the change in Washington. The vice president then backpedaled, explaining that he does not decide such matters.

“Mr. Prime Minister, in case you haven’t noticed, there’s a real difference between being president and vice president,” he said, perhaps referring to the structure of Russia’s leadership, in which Mr. Putin occupies the country’s second-highest post but is widely viewed as its paramount leader.

Visa liberalization had been the subject of informal discussion before the meeting, said Anthony J. Blinken, the vice president’s national security adviser. “The Russians know full well, as do the Americans, that there are legal requirements set by Congress to be met for visa liberalization that the Russians have not yet achieved,” including bringing the visa refusal rate down below 3 percent, Mr. Blinken said.

Asked when that might occur, he said, “it could be next year, it could be in 10 years.”

The Russian press on Friday reported Mr. Putin’s proposal as top news from Mr. Biden’s visit, shifting the focus from coverage of the vice president’s public criticism of Russia’s legal and political systems. One report the next day suggested the prime minister had succeeded in disarming his visitor.

In the daily newspaper Kommersant, a reporter, Andrei Kolesnikov, took some liberties with the moment, telling readers: “ ‘Yes,’ said Mr. Biden, quickly writing something in his notebook (either Mr. Putin’s idea, or some phrase like, ‘Joe, get ahold of yourself! Give him a good answer! You are the vice president of a great country!’)”

Dmitri V. Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, said Mr. Putin’s suggestion was probably aimed at dominating Friday’s news cycle. He described it as a “successful operation.”

“As a way to attract attention, yes, it worked,” Mr. Trenin said. “As a way to knock someone off course, maybe it also worked.”

Interactions between Mr. Putin and foreign leaders are scrutinized here as an especially revealing type of political theater. It was 10 years ago that President George W. Bush remarked warmly, after one of his first meetings with a still little-known Mr. Putin, “I looked the man in the eye. I was able to get a sense of his soul.”

When President Obama visited Russia in July 2009, his breakfast with Mr. Putin ran for two hours, the first of which was largely an uninterrupted monologue by Mr. Putin, aides said afterward.

After, Mr. Putin and Mr. Biden met privately for 15 minutes in Mr. Putin’s office. On Thursday, a senior American administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, described the meeting as “a serious discussion about serious issues,” including cooperation on missile defense, accession to the World Trade Organization, Georgia, Afghanistan and energy.

On Friday, Mr. Biden continued to Moldova, a former Soviet republic where a pro-Western coalition took power in 2009, displacing an old-guard Communist leadership. Addressing an overflow crowd in Opera House Square in the capital, Chisnau, where young demonstrators gathered two years ago in what became known as the “Twitter Revolution,” Mr. Biden linked Moldova’s transition to the uprisings that have upended North Africa and the Middle East.

He said he was glad “to be here at this transformative moment in your history, and quite frankly in the history of the world. Freedom is in the air, and democracy is emerging in countries that for generations have known nothing but authoritarian rule.”