An independent pollster, the Levada Center, conducted a new survey on the way Russian President Vladimir Putin is perceived. As the Moscow Times points out, “Putin’s attractiveness to the public is not only shrinking, but the damage is irreversible.” The poll, conducted on May 15, showed that the belief in characteristics such as his business-like demeanor and well-educated background have dropped considerably since 2000.
The most striking drop in numbers regarded his demeanor as “pleasant and charming,” which dropped to a low of 7 percent according to the poll. 89 percent of those polled believe that Putin is guilty of abuse of power. An entire image overhaul would be necessary for Putin to overcome these drastic drops in approval ratings, and even this strategy, given his many years in public office under the same guise, would have unpredictable success.
The drop in numbers comes on the heels of Putin’s reelection to the presidential seat back in March, which has fomented large gatherings and protests on a regular basis over the last few months. On the eve of his inauguration, as many as 100,000 protesters were said to have gathered in response to the beginning of his new six year term. Violence broke out between the police and the crowd, and perhaps 400 people were arrested, including the central organizers of the protests.
Protesters have continued their marches through the streets over the last few weeks as Putin has settled back into his position of power. Using many of the same tactics as the Occupy Wall Street movement, many activists have camped overnight in squares throughout the city. Most recently, protesters were flushed out of the Chistoprudny Bulvar area on Wednesday after residents supposedly complained.
The movement is facing fewer and fewer options for gathering and protesting in safety as the police continue to flush them out of every available public space in Moscow. According to the Moscow Times, protesters have moved to another area of town and are hoping deputies of the area deem the meeting of people as a street festival in order to avoid arrest and dispersion.
The continued popular unrest and the tainted image of Vladimir Putin have dominated headlines pertaining to Russia over the last few months and have even affected foreign investments in Russia. Capital flight reached $42 billion dollars since the beginning of the year. The reasoning behind such vast capital flight is directly linked to the unrest in the area. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “While foreign companies already in Russia are familiar with the risks, those who are considering whether to invest are concerned about political stability and economic predictability.”
The political unrest surrounding Putin’s return to power, despite his claims for democratic processes and reforms aimed at better government, will continue throughout the coming weeks. Lawmakers are threatening to raise the fine for protesting to a staggering 500,000 rubles ($16,100 approximately), up from a mere 2,000 rubles before. This new fine is a clear attack on the current disapproval of the government, and contrary to the democratic processes Putin claims he supports. His continued negative image and his refusal to attend the G8 summit this week also herald tense international relations with the rest of Europe and the United States.
Photo Credit: Cherie A. Thurlby