The popularity of a number of leaders has been going strong since the beginning of February. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party is rising from 28 percent to 39 percent. The percentage of British people who think positively about Prime Minister Boris Johnson rose sharply: from 48 to 66 percent. In his own country, Mark Rutte’s VVD is adding virtual seats. Even the troubled French President Emmanuel Macron is reviving from 33 to 40 percent.
The corona bonus
It often happens that the people ranks behind their leader (for a while) in times of crisis. But that does not apply to the Russians. Of course, democratic countries are not quite comparable to Russia, but it is still striking that the ‘corona bonus’ completely ignores President Putin.
In fact, Putin’s popularity has fallen from 69 to 59 percent since February. That is still very high, but not for Putin. It has never been so low.
Are there opinion polls in Russia?
With all the stories of poor freedom of the press, you would think that there are no objective polls in Russia. Yet there is an agency that is seen as objective: the Levada Center.
That has gauged Putin’s popularity for many years. Normally this happens personally, but this time it was not because of the corona crisis. According to Levada, that only makes things worse for Putin. In telephone polls, people are more likely to give socially desirable answers and support those in power.
Soot in the food
Putin’s popularity is at a (relatively) low ebb, while the president had big plans for this spring. First there was to be a referendum in April on a new constitution that would allow him to remain president until 2036. Putin is then 83 years old. That referendum has now been postponed.
Also, Russia should have had a huge party last weekend to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany. Here too, corona threw a spanner in the works. The streets remained empty, just look:
Meanwhile, the Russian government is struggling to control the corona outbreak. Today, more than 11,000 registered infections were added. This makes Russia the third corona country in the world in terms of contamination.
The President’s actions are not very popular with all Russians. Putin consistently describes the lockdown as ‘non-working days’, presumably to avoid negative associations.
Furthermore, the President holds a sort of Zoom press conference every week with numerous ministers and governors. They all scoop up dry information, so that not everyone keeps their attention, including the president himself. Watch:
Something crazy is going on with those regional administrators. In the polls, they score higher than the President. That is striking, because normally this is the other way around. A large proportion of Russians usually think that the president is good, but that the ministers and local officials are bothering him. Corona has turned the tables.
Meanwhile, the situation in Russian health care is dire in many places. For example, there are traffic jams of ambulances for full hospitals. There is also a strikingly large number of health workers who become infected. Our correspondent made this report about it:
There are also economic problems. Those ‘non-working days’ must be paid by the companies. To compensate, among other things, for business, Russia, like many other countries, has rigged up a support package.
Poison cup not empty yet
But the ruble bag is only 2.5 percent of the national income, while in developed countries it is 10 to 15 percent. A group of Russian economists say Putin should at least increase it to 4 percent.
Russia basically has deep pockets. There are large reserves and a budget surplus for years. He may also need that, because Russia (exporter of oil and gas) is suffering greatly from the low oil price.
And the corona crisis? Without diminishing numbers, Putin announces today that tomorrow’s lockdown is largely over.