United Russia, Putin and Medvedev Decline in Popularity
While it is a foregone conclusion that Vladimir Putin will be elected president and United Russia will have an outright majority simply because they control the electoral commission, the independent polls from Russia (including those of the respected Levada Institute) are signaling a decline in support for United Russia as well as for Putin and Medvedev.
One interesting reason has been the exposure of the Putin-Medvedev tandem as a fraud with Medvedev's call to nominate Putin and the revelation that Medvedev was merely keeping Putin's place warm.
According to the strategic research center, the tandem papered over the split between the modernizers and the traditionalists with Medvedev appealing to the former and Putin to the latter. With Medvedev's subservient role to Putin, the modernizers have been cast adrift. Medvedev cannot transfer their support to Putin nor can Putin appeal simultaneously to both groups of voters.
The status of the regional leaders who were appointed by Medvedev and Putin is catastrophic. They will bring in the vote only as a result of voter dependence on their largesse. There is a disconnect, that also manifested itself in the Gorbachev era, between Moscow and St. Petersburg on the one hand and the interior regions on the other.
The residents of the major cities are usually the better educated and more affluent who feel that they can make it on their own. Russia has many company towns who need the government to keep them going and to clamp down on foreign imports.
The poll follows another internal Kremlin poll, also leaked to Gazeta.ru, that showed United Russia's numbers dangerously under water in several key regions, including Moscow (29 percent), St. Petersburg (31 percent) and Kaliningrad Oblast (27 percent).The latter are more dependent on government assistance and the inhabitants are generally poorer and less educated.
As both Putin and Medvedev come from St. Petersburg, a bad result in that city will be considered a personal repudiation.
One of the major complaints is that the standard of living has not risen and has even receded in some areas, despite windfall oil profits. This is attributed to corruption and capital flight and the inability of the economy to be competitive aside from raw materials sales.