How long can Putin hold on?
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. (Getty Images)
January 10th, 2012
02:11 PM ET

How long can Putin hold on?

Editor’s Note: This is an edited version of an article from the ‘Oxford Analytica Daily Brief’. Oxford Analytica is a global analysis and advisory firm that draws on a worldwide network of experts to advise its clients on their strategy and performance.

The organizers of the Moscow demonstrations are planning an even larger public rally on February 4, one month before the presidential election. The protests have already presented Vladimir Putin with an unprecedented challenge - not least because the political upheaval has been spearheaded by well-educated urban professionals and entrepreneurs. So far, Putin has not chosen meaningful outreach to this group, reaching instead for the familiar political tools of populism and nationalism.

The Putin leadership is accustomed to resolving political problems by buying support - on a mass level through distributional programs funded largely by hydrocarbon taxes, and on an elite level through implicit guarantees of property security and business opportunities.

However, the representatives of the protest movement present a new sort of challenge: they demand not hand-outs of this sort, but public goods - such as infrastructure, healthcare and small business services - that only a functioning state can provide. Demonstrators were overwhelmingly highly educated with incomes sufficient to secure a middle-class lifestyle, so they are in a position to concentrate on issues beyond immediate material concerns.

Therefore, their demands cannot be readily ‘bought off’. Calls for systemic political liberalization and the cancellation of the parliamentary election results have the same character.

In an address to the new Duma (lower house of parliament) on December 22, President Dmitry Medvedev announced a number of changes to the political system. These included the formation of a new independent public television service and an investigation of electoral fraud.

From the perspective of the protesters, these changes are cosmetic at best. For example, broadcast television has increasingly been supplanted by the Internet as a source of information, at least among urban and relatively prosperous citizens. Furthermore, redress for any instances of electoral fraud is offered only through lawsuits regarding violations at individual precincts, and the courts have already proven unreceptive to challenges even where there is evidence of straightforward miscounting.

As yet, there are no indications that Putin is adjusting course to accommodate the political and socioeconomic priorities of educated, urban voters. He has consistently belittled both the protesters and their complaints regarding electoral fraud, which he portrays - and may actually perceive - as nothing more than a cynical power-play sponsored by nefarious foreign forces.

He has flatly rejected the demand for a re-run of the Duma elections. Even while backing measures that may make falsification of the presidential vote more difficult, such as web camera monitoring of vote-counts, Putin presents them not as a concession to well-founded concerns, but as a strike against "the efforts of our opponents to delegitimise these elections".

Moreover, his re-election campaign will be run through the All-Russian People's Front, an organization created in spring 2011 to bring Putin backers under a more populist (and less reputationally tainted) umbrella than United Russia. The risk of systemic upheaval, therefore, arises not from the continuation of the protests, but instead from Putin's political and policy inflexibility.

Appeals for genuine modernization have implications both for Russia's political evolution and also its macroeconomic development. The professionals behind the recent protests would play a crucial role in any diversification away from extreme dependence on hydrocarbons - ostensibly a long-held ambition of Russia's leaders.

However, addressing their concerns would require moving beyond the arsenal of redistributive measures that have kept Putin's system afloat for more than eleven years. Having shown himself unwilling or unable to embark on such a program, Putin has all but ensured an intensification of the protests.

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Topics: Russia

soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. 100% ETHIO STRONGER!

    Unfortunately, there are only few Countries in the World, whose leaders are serving for the best interests of their Country and their People. Unlike others who just love to be a leader and self-appointed Militarily Gang (Gorilla) groups.

    The most common one is, those who are being placed for the best Political interests of the Foreign Countries who placed them to be a leader. These leaders are the though one to be replaced. They keep hanging the power either until they die or forced by bloodshed. They are being easily chosen and manipulated systematically, by Foreign agents to serve them according to their interests.

    One time, Sikhs in India, were separatist ethnic groups and as the result most of them left India. And also, several Countries did the same.

    It is just clear if we go by the lists of each Country. They are being forced to follow the Doctrines of other INFLUENCER (Foreign) Countries.

    For example, 1) British wants its Political Doctrines to be implemented in such and such Countries, BNA act in N-America,.

    2) America want its own Political Doctrine on other Countries,

    3) Russia wants its own Political Doctrine to be implemented and adopted in other Countries,

    At the past, Adolf Hitler did; Bonito Mussolini did; Ottoman Empire did; French and other European did influenced other countries against their will.

    However, at the end, the Scars will remained within the influenced people and the influencer or main attackers will dispersed from the games and the World will remain vigilant and loose trusts among each other.

    At this moment, does the World Trust each other??? No!! But, we are living a Cat and Mouse life. People spied one another. Then, the World will end.

    January 10, 2012 at 4:57 pm | Reply
    • Andrey

      So willl you be so kind to list the countries whose leaders serving best interest or their Countries and their People...
      Russia wants its own Political Doctrine be impllemented and adopted in Russia – which obviously is not accepted favourably by all-knowing political analysts like you. Why you liberals can not leave human business to us humans and would not go back to your wonderful planet Liberia, or whateve you call it!

      January 12, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Reply
  2. 100% ETH

    Putin, one of his eye is in U.S. and another one in his Home.

    January 10, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Reply
    • truthfor477

      In Antarctica have found oil. The government of the USA has declared – to a bloody regime of penguins the end will soon come. jjjjj

      January 22, 2012 at 6:42 am | Reply
  3. 100% ETH

    What happened for that Sputnik Satellite placed in Space, purposely to target U.S., in Nikita Kruschev time?
    Before President Obama, every American Presidents they mentioned One thing, at the beginning of their Presidency. They said, "...none of the Russian Bomb dropped and attack American in America".
    I think, Kruschev's Son he live in Chicago, very comfortably.

    Put-in, he will never Put-away his authority. For how long?? Come-on zak. You know the game. Do you remember Doctor Rampa?? He said, "I've Three Eyes. Two of them are like you, but the Third one is Satellite". When Doctor Rampa was questioned how long he will live, his respond was Million Square Years. I think he refered his age with the Earth and its Solar system longevity.

    So Put-in? I have no idea. Those...paid employees they might know. But, it looks the World created Opposition among itself. You remember that Song, ' I said yes, you said no..."?

    January 10, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Reply
  4. j. von hettlingen

    Putin reminds me very much of Nicholas I of Russia (1796-1855). Putin is as reactionary as the tsar, a paternal autocrat ruling his people by whatever means were necessary.

    January 10, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      Like the tsar Putin also emphasizes the values of Russian nationalism, Slavic philosophy and the critical view towards western culture and rationalism.

      January 10, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Reply
      • j. von hettlingen

        The young and urban protesters see this thinking as an obstacle to Russia's modernisation and progress. They want to be part of Europe.

        January 10, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • Andrey

      Nice talking to yourself!
      I do not think you know much about Nicolay 1 beyond the born-died dates. And looking at how Europeans have allowed liberals to destroy the independence and economy of their own countries – it would be just one of the reason "to emphasize the value of Slavic philosophy (I do not know what you mean there, but whatever!) and the critical view towards western culture and rationalism (or irrationalism – depending on the point of view)".
      As for the young and urban protesters: Russia seems to get its own fair share or young foolish liberals who could be targeted via social networks. Big part of them are Jews who are simply are not happy with Putin open support for Russian Orthodox Church – so their fears were used by certain foreign forces who wish to punish Putin for his independent position in regard of placement of US strategic defense systems in Europe. So I personally very upset about how vulnerable Russia is for foreign meddling. I see this protests as a disgrace for Russian people! Hate that!

      January 12, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Reply
  5. Onesmallvoice

    What is so scary here is the prospect of another Boris Yeltsin like figure coming to power in Russia who is willing to sell out to the West for personal gain. This is the terrifying alternative to Vladimir Putin. Russia realy needs to return to it's former role in the world as it's second superpower and help stop all these brutal wars in the Middle East and Central Asia as the United States, Great Britain and France went way overboard on their expansionism over there!!!

    January 11, 2012 at 8:48 am | Reply
    • George Patton

      Like you, Onesmallvoice, I too am haunted by the spectre of another Boris Yeltsin coming to power in Russia, bringing that country back to the bad old days(1991-1998) and crawling to the West for foreign aid. Let's just hope that doesn't happen.

      January 11, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Reply
  6. patod

    having lived in russia (moscow) for a period, all of this discussion on Putin is interesting, but from the russians i met, unless something really drastic happens (not sure what that would be), he will be the next president. history is a major factor in the lives of russians, and when Putin came to power, he made the russians feel safe. i was there when there were bombings, when a group of people took over a theatre (but then many were killed when soldiers came to save them - by the actions of the soldiers). what people respected about Putin was that he took action against the evil ones. the middle class was just starting to develop when i left the country, but life was so much better for russians than it was when i was first there in 1994. there were even debit cards and people were not afraid to put their money in the bank (vice putting it under their mattress) - i think this was the beginning of a middle class. so, unless the opposition can come up with a candidate who the people think can keep them safe (from whatever), and keep the middle class as a class in the society, i am not sure someone else will win against him. makes for good reading and conversation - funny thing is when i talk to russian friends on the phone, there is always hesitation to discuss such things - so, the more things change, the more they stay the same. don't know if russia will ever be a super power again - perhaps when it realizes the economic power it COULD have, it will move back up to that position. my thoughts have always been that if russia could utilize the wealth of resources it holds, that country would be right at the top with regard to economic power - they haven't reached that level of thought yet though.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:26 am | Reply
  7. matt

    If he wants to pose as a democratic reformer, capitalist , and humanitarian, adopt the mindset of former British PM
    Margaret Thatcher and coerce Syrian PM Al-Assad to stop the widespread genocide.

    January 11, 2012 at 7:41 pm | Reply

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