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Putin’s dilemma

4 March 2012

If you enjoy scoring tiny but likely returns on your wagers, then how
about putting some money down on Vladimir Putin to win today’s presidential election in Russia? William Hill are currently offering odds of 1/100, if you’re interested. Like John Simpson, writing
for this week’s Spectator, they regard this as ‘Russia’s Coronation Day’. A near cert.

The rest of Simpson’s article is worth reading, but it’s his conclusion that we’ll pull out here. Putin, he says, will ‘walk it in the first round’ today, but his medium-term future
looks far less secure:

‘Russia is changing. It can’t simply be told to shut up any more. Soon — not within six years, perhaps, but probably within 12 — people who regard themselves as
middle-class will outnumber the traditional, malleable masses. When a BBC programme vox-popped people in Moscow the other day about the supposed assassination plot against Putin, they
couldn’t find anyone who believed it. He’s a shoe-in at this election; but the shoe may not fit all that much longer.’

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It’s a persuasive point, although I’d say it forms only half of Putin’s dilemma. As I’ve blogged before, Putin’s rule has largely been predicated on bringing propsperity and wealth to his
country. If that starts to slip — and there are signs that it might — then all of Russia’s voters may turn against him. But if he continues to deliver, then he could just be bolstering
the ranks of those discerning middle classes that Simpson writes about.

So far as his prospects are concerned, Putin has to strike a weird and fragile balance between economy and demography. The odds of him succeeding, in the end, are some way longer than 1/100.

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Show comments
  • Rhoda Klapp

    Interesting to see an item about how the political establishment cannot suppress the true voice of the people for long coming from a leading light of the BBC.

  • Pete Hoskin

    AW: Exactly — that’s why I talk about a “fragile balance”. My point is simply that, in the long run, he’s going to find it difficult whatever he does.

  • geoffm

    @Tele is after the Russian financial commisars job for Putin. His taxes in the previous article will go down a storm in Russia. Take a trip out to Cyprus to see the influence loads of dosh they have even opened their own banks there

  • In2minds

    I thought Korski did tricky things like this? He’s on sabbatical like Hilton I’ll be bound.

  • salieri

    I do wonder what the egregious “telemachus’” presumes to know about “the average Russian”. It’s easy to talk about pride and self-respect if you have never lacked a loaf of bread. It is less easy, if you are even half-sane, to appreciate what Stalin did give his people other than misery, terror, starvation on an unimaginable scale and a bullet in the back of the head.

    Btw, the expression is “shoo in” and has nothing to do with footwear.

  • michael crockett

    as usual, telemachus, you can be relied upon to make unfounded and ridiculous comments on any subject, but most especially Russia.

  • David L

    Absolutely right, Telemachus. All the educated Russians I know love and idolise Putin. They just have a funny way of showing it. Mostly they are emigrating…..

  • AW

    So Putin’s in trouble because an increasingly wealthy Russia is becoming more middle class, but Putin’s in trouble because Russia might not become wealthier (and therefore more middle class). Top quality stuff as usual.

  • Jupiter

    It’s shoo-in.

  • Augustus

    This election may be part coronation of Vladimir Putin, but it’s also a turning point for his corrupt system. The cynicism of his pirouette with Medvedev, a manoeuvre that entirely excluded the Russian people from any real role in choosing their government, has been widely understood inside Russia as well as outside it. Recent months have seen a rebirth of popular protest against autocratic rule. As in Iran, this election dramatizes for citizens the ways in which Russia is not a democracy, the voter has no control over the government, and the nation continues to fall far short of the standards of decent, open, responsive government. As sceptics rightly say, elections do not a democracy make.

  • whatawaste

    The parallels with recent UK General elections are uncanny. Both subvert true democracy in that the electorate do not have a real “choice”. In Russia whoever you vote for Putin will be President; in the UK whoever you vote for you will get just More EU.

  • telemachus’

    Putin is the strong man Russia has craved since Stalin. It has been pathetic the way the newscasts have been trawling the country to find 2 perhaps 3 people who do not like him
    As Stalin gave the people pride and self respect so Putin and that is worth more to the average Russian than a loaf of bread

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