BACK STORY with DANA LEWIS

The Plunging Popularity of Vladimir Putin

June 21, 2020 Dana Lewis Season 1 Episode 13
BACK STORY with DANA LEWIS
The Plunging Popularity of Vladimir Putin
Chapters
BACK STORY with DANA LEWIS
The Plunging Popularity of Vladimir Putin
Jun 21, 2020 Season 1 Episode 13
Dana Lewis

Looming unrest in Russia.   Experts believe President Putin's popularity is in a nose dive because of Covid19, low oil prices, rising unemployment, broken businesses, disappointment and dissatisfaction with The Kremlin.   

The referendum to extend Putin's stay in power is being rushed because The Kremlin knows that unrest is likely to boil over by the fall into street protests.

Former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, and Maria Snegovaya from the Centre for European Policy analysis talk to BACKSTORY with Dana Lewis about fake Covid19 death rates, and torqued polling and referendum results.  And both predict we are in un-chartered waters now in Russia politics, and Putin's leadership is predicted to be a casualty of the pandemic.  


Show Notes Transcript

Looming unrest in Russia.   Experts believe President Putin's popularity is in a nose dive because of Covid19, low oil prices, rising unemployment, broken businesses, disappointment and dissatisfaction with The Kremlin.   

The referendum to extend Putin's stay in power is being rushed because The Kremlin knows that unrest is likely to boil over by the fall into street protests.

Former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, and Maria Snegovaya from the Centre for European Policy analysis talk to BACKSTORY with Dana Lewis about fake Covid19 death rates, and torqued polling and referendum results.  And both predict we are in un-chartered waters now in Russia politics, and Putin's leadership is predicted to be a casualty of the pandemic.  


Speaker 2:

Hi everyone. And welcome to backstory in this edition. I'm Dana Lewis . Russia president Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000 as a correspondent. I covered the election.

Speaker 3:

... and never did I imagine he would still be president 20 years later because the Russian constitution only gave him a mandate of two, four year terms. Then he extended that to six year terms and became prime minister for a term. And then president again, he has maneuvered around the country's constitution again and again, and now in a referendum, he will change the constitution to allow him to stay in power until 2036

Speaker 4:

[inaudible]

Dana Lewis -host :

Would they use [inaudible] 67 years old. Now Putin spoke this June 12th on Russia day. He urged Russians to turn out and vote for constitutional reform in a referendum on July the first saying he was certain that an absolute majority of Russians backed it. And the way the Kremlin counts votes, you can be assured a majority. It will be, but many believe in the midst of a pandemic. Putin's racing to have that referendum because his popularity is in a nosedive and it will only get worse. So on backstory, we talked to former prime minister of Russia, Mikhail Kasyanov and Maria Snegovaya via from the center for European policy analysis. Thank you both for being here. Thank you for the invitation. Firstly, the pandemic, I mean, Russia has lifted most of its lockdowns. It's different region by region, but Mikhail , maybe do you firstly , um, Moscow certainly is back to business 12 million people. Is that a good thing?

Mikhail Kasyanov:

Yeah, that is , I would say the nice feeling among people on one hand, just around the sand that is still in most of them , the whole Roscoe we have every then we'll have new cases by eight or eight South end 500 cases every day on some old dentists ordering just to perform the parade military parade with the participation of almost 70,000 militaries. And also he appointed amendments to the constitution for the 1st of July . And there is absolutely absolutely what I'm here from regionals and the official statements on governments one way or another. They canceling those parades, a local operation there , their cities to the way , the Capitol over Asians because of this funding . In fact,

Dana Lewis :

I think I'm glad you that, because I think, you know, earlier in the week they were saying 10 cities had had canceled. And then now they're saying there's another three that have canceled. So , so Maria and if I can ask you, president Putin told state TV on Sunday that the American response to the virus and recent anti-racism protests reassigned a deep seated internal crisis in America, which has recorded the highest overall death toll from COVID-19 as we all know in the world. But he claimed that his country was emerging from this epidemic with minimal losses. What's he saying there? Do you believe him ?

Maria Snegovaya:

Well , uh , president Putin , um , really just says to his people that he wants all of them to come and to support his constitutional amendments on July 1st. And that's why he needs to sound very optimistic and positive about how Russia handled this crisis. Uh, but as you correctly pointed out , uh, we, I actually look quite uncertain about the numbers, if anything , uh, there was a great work versus stations , uh , who demonstrate that pretty much all of the available statistics on the coronavirus deaths in coroner's infections are fake. And you can literally see because the numbers are distributed in a very horizontal way, in a completely artificial manner that demonstrates that they officials just, I afraid to show 'em any high numbers. So that is a problem. Uh , but most importantly, I would just add to Michael's answer to this question , um , that , uh, the Russians are primarily concerned, not so much about the coronavirus, but about their economic wellbeing, particularly given that the Kremlin did not really provide Russians Amy carrots , uh , throughout this crisis in the sense that people there were sticks. People were forced to stay at home, but there was no extra payments by the government in order to help them sustain through this crisis. And as a result, many of them just really have to make the ends meet and therefore they need to go , um , and work. Uh , one of the indications by the way, is the unprecedented collapse in the consumer sentiment, our rating, which is only comparable to the crisis of 2008. So the economic situation is quite worrisome for the Kremlin.

Speaker 3:

All right . I know Mikhail loves to talk economics. And so, but before we, before we come back to that, I do want to mention that as you were talking about statistics, in fact, echo Muscovy , the radio station, that that generally is an a real opposition radio station. It has been in Moscow reported this week that nearly 6,000 more people died in Moscow during may, then on average, putting Russia among the worst hit countries in Europe. And if you can just help me understand why is it important for the Kremlin to lie about the numbers? I mean, one of the , just come clean about it.

Speaker 1:

That's the old habit for me , it's the habit. And also just cranking the form that way, what they used to do before, because just, you know, all the leaders, all of the just ministers, they all came from the Soviet union and they had this spirit, they have this habit to perform this way. And then when they to realize that, in fact, just in Russia, the actual statistics is a real load in Europe. And they had decided to double three times less than in Europe or origin Europe, but they doubled the previous, the previous reports wall . But in fact, the man said , right now, people are curious because of the situation, social and situation you'll know that all these three packages we're going to announce , that's only 2% of GDP, you know , just all European Congress and building in countries with the support of people and businesses like eight, 10% of GDP. Russia had this money available for these doesn't want to spend this . That's why people realizes that they cannot already perform just as they did in February or in January and unfairly. I think it's only important. What we're talking about already canceled, participate on those programs, offered to them because those special schemes offered to them and effective . There is no actual support of businesses, no actual support of population , although you still have 60% popularity, that's not bad. I think most world leaders would be happy to trade their popularity right now for a 60% because that's because that's a 60% actual. In fact, we always had like 45% between 40 and 50%. And then the thing just all the elections, just one time, one election . So it was all other elections or just with fence vacation , the results were not credible . And in fact, mathematical researches of those people who involved in the elections, they complained that it was always 46, 45, 49%, but never more than 50%, never a part of the year consultant when we had 51.5,

Speaker 5:

If I may jump in, as a matter of fact, two points I wanted to , to watch , uh , well said, which I really very much agree with. First of all, the reason why the Kremlin wasn't in a rush to spend the money , uh, it has to do with the fact that it's introduced to the so called holidays rather than the official lockdown. Uh , that means mania stayed , uh, employed. Uh , uh, people are in Russia will continue to get in their salaries. Uh , while people who are employed in private businesses effectively will left, but without Ania sources of incomes, this is just another strategy with food and the ground tend to actually give favors to what they perceive as their own constituencies, which are at this point, it's proportionally are the people employed by the state owned or state linked to enterprises. Uh, but most importantly, the criminal will expect the situation to get much not right now. Where were we observing unprecedented decline, prudent Putin's approval, but actually in this fall. And one of the reasons why they've been saving this money is actually to be able to persuade the situation and the protest when they start erupting, which they predict will be actually later ,

Speaker 3:

Maria, you just coauthored a great analysis piece in foreign policy. And the headline is that the Corona virus could hit Putin most of all.

Speaker 5:

So by the way, also to go back to the point about the ratings, miHealth says that a 60% approval is not a reliable non-BAR and it's true, but it's also , um , remember that we're talking about pulling in at aquatic system. Uh, even when , uh , people respond honestly to the question, who would you support? Who would you vote for? If the election was next Sunday, they still are really , uh, making the choices in the situation of a complete lack of alternatives and what it really tells you in a non-free society, right? When someone unknown calls you on the phone or knocks on your door and asks you, Hey, you know, I gonna , who are you going to support next Sunday? Right? It actually tells you, is that about a third or more of people are not afraid to say that they will not support it . Maybe institutions, which opposites with looking at how many people do not say they will support it , given , uh , you know, irreplaceable leader rather than it, how many people say they will support. Also, as we point out in the foreign policy article, the situation is really not good. Food Putin is I have mentioned before. Uh , the consumer sentiment is , uh, um , the collapse in the community sentiment is only , uh , comparable to the 2008 financial crisis. And if you think that nothing has happened after 2000 financial crisis, and it's true at the time, the situation was relatively stable. You are wrong because as a matter of fact, many pools demonstrate that they 2008 had such an effect on people in Russia that finally sort of , um , headed , um, you know, outburst throughout 2011,

Speaker 3:

Right? We started to see these street demonstrations , uh , and I think , uh , Mikhail , you were arrested at one of them where you,

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that was long ago. I think, I think there's a, right now, there is no desire for people to go on the streets, but in fact, by coming fall by autumn, this situation will change considerably. And it's now is being changing right now. And people already started feeling that , that they , they had to openly criticize. And in fact, in many people who are forced now to go to the walls for people putting amendments and these people working for the government and getting money from they're from different institutions, I wouldn't say just the government ministers , but on the level of

Speaker 3:

They, in fact, they don't want to compromise what they know . And that's why, that's why they're saying just to just both, you're both Russian, will you help me understand something? And that is Maria you . Yeah. I just don't understand why Russians are willing to accept a lot of this. And Maria, you wrote in your story and I've been, you know, I was 12 years in Moscow as a correspondent and I , I follow it then you've probably given me the most succinct sentence I've read , uh , about understanding the Russian psyche. And you can explain it if you don't mind that Russians historically prioritize the state's ability to provide social rights over civil rights. So they're willing to swallow unreal elections , not, you know, they're , they're , they're sham elections by European standards. Uh, but because the Kremlin provided certain pension , uh , minimums and social rights , uh, they have been willing to, to , uh, turn a blind eye to a lot of what happens in terms of the way the Kremlin , uh, manipulates the situation. Is that what you mean? And that they're not prepared to do so now?

Speaker 5:

Uh , that's absolutely true. And , uh, Russia is not really that unique in the sense that all societies , that traditionalist paternalistic in the sense that they primarily expect the state to deliver, to provide the surgeon , certain social goods , uh , to them. And it takes a while for the societies to evolve to the understanding of the necessity of the civil rights, even in Europe, in the West , uh, these countries took centuries to develop this understanding , uh , in Russia, which really lacks a sustainable experience of democracy. Uh, this , uh, understanding really is yet to come. But what we see in the polls is actually the Russians are increasingly awakening to the understanding or for the importance of freedom of speech of the civil rights being protected is also the grammar. Isn't running out of resources to be able to deliver , uh , the social goods as we demonstrate . Uh , and this is in you a phenomenon in the last three years on different indicators of civil rights. We see an increase, the Russians increasingly view that as more important, partly because they really have been able to satisfy that primarily, you know , um, economic needs earlier.

Speaker 3:

I was going to ask you me, Kyle here is part of that also about the fragmentation of the message, because up until now, the criminal has been great at controlling radio and television, but I mean more and more, you have the fragmentation of internet that people are getting real messages and real truth from different sources. Yeah . In fact, in fact, in the BC , there's been people just every day using it,

Speaker 5:

Jessica surrogates

Speaker 1:

In Moscow, I believe it's not more than 15% or something like that in the actual actual support. But of course, in the rural areas and the industrial centers, just in Siberia or somewhere there in euros , just a little more because they continue to believe that there is no alternative work to do good live better lives . And people around here , ministers and wrong guys about putting his grave . That's why they support him and expect him to ask something that's continued to prevail in those regions.

Speaker 3:

So what does this add up to the Kremlin is under pressure. Putin is under pressure. The, the economic situation is worsening and that's why maybe they shouldn't be lifting the lockdown on COVID-19, but they're doing it now because they want to get this referendum done.

Speaker 5:

The one to get the referendum on the wound, the economic situation to restore. As I mentioned before, economic considerations are the E uh, currently , uh , that's really shows that it explains the dynamical food is approval. And , uh , in , in light of the five years, consistent decline in real disposable incomes in Russia, they really need the economy to at least somewhat start , uh , picking up because otherwise, really that great improve evolutionary situation in Russia. And just to follow up on my earlier point where I compared the concentration with the 2008 financial crisis, what's different. You're like we heard a lot, like, so put a rating was down before. So what's new about this situation . What is new is that we are facing this major crisis comparable to 2008 when it comes to the consumer sentiment. If this is a situation when the Putin's approval has been consistently declining for several years in the role , and people are getting tired of food, food is increasingly becoming a liability. It's very visible in the ratings as well. The way people talk over him, he's no longer the strong match man, the way he used to be. And this is very new. It's very unclear how the crowd is going to try to manage the current situation. When we , as much people are tired of him, very, very tired of him personally.

Speaker 3:

Well, if they're getting tired of them, that they better buckle up because there's a lot more to come because if he wins this referendum, he will be able to stay in power until 2036.

Speaker 1:

That's random. That is illegal because just want to have a referendum. As I mentioned to you earlier, there is only two forms of working in Russia, which is constitutional provides for that scale , etc . And the referendum just didn't want to. And the constitutional judges just described to him and told people that those changes, which we introduced the minor sense. That's why gender is normally still wants just demonstrational people's love . And this is just artificial, just positioning. It's nothing to do with , with the legal consequences. And the results are already clear. There will be not pleased at 60%. So now there will be not less than 65% approval , et cetera, et cetera.

Speaker 3:

They already know they already know what the turnout is and they haven't had the referendum yet.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely , absolutely .

Speaker 5:

It's a very stable country. We already know the results before the elections .

Speaker 3:

Yeah. I think at some of the regional votes, they've had like 110% turnout. And in some of these elections, they've had some pretty strange numbers, but Maria, you wrote at the end of your article and sort of keep referring back to it, but I'm interested in, you said Putin himself could become a liability to the very system he has created by 2020 for the year of the next national election. These changes may become deep enough to represent fundamentally new challenges to Putin's ability to sustain his hold on power. You think it's going to boil between now and then

Speaker 5:

This is unusual. As I mentioned before, it says Putin himself is no longer NESAD before. For pretty much 20 years, wooden was a person who really held the whole a personality separate aquatic system together because he was so popular because if this quote unquote legitimacy of peers , we see that this is the key element that's been under erosion at the moment because people are growing tired of food. And personally, this is, as I mentioned before, for instance , even in the jokes that people joke around, this is new, but unfortunately what actually has been missed by the West , Western this in the midst of this pandemic is the fact that food defacto eliminated, whatever election, whatever the pool's left from the election and Russia is because it also correctly pointed out that when human change is introduced to the electro lows that affected effectively allow the gremlin to falsify anything. They wanted all there was no observers. Uh , there is a distance voting that will be done with electronic voting. We were not in single possibility of monitor and exist. Even before that there were not as many, but right now there will be totally eliminated in the first try . We'll be doing this unfortunately , constitutional vote on July 1st. There's actually the criminal understands that they in a little bit yen went into even the election they used to do in the past. So right now they defect , eliminated all election at all. And that creates a deep challenge for the rest of the position. How to deal with is a really, you said a reality, but definitely one thing for sure interested times are coming for Russia. The gremlin is no longer as stable as it used to be. That's for sure.

Speaker 3:

Kyle , last word.

Speaker 1:

Yeah , I agree with that. I agree with that. Just in fact, the Putnam right now, just very nervous, but I'll just, just, just throw them on top . He said original plan B. She announced in the middle of January, and then you can just join it , then, then fall down or for all price. Just it one more on that. Right now we have minus 6% of GDP deficit deficit of the budget . And that is the problem. And putting already allowed central bank to print money somehow to neutralize the problems of the minister of finance doesn't know what to do because contrary to monitoring vision of the whole policy . But that is the fact that the government, the government is not working , not as a , as a team, as a system assistance . And by autumn , we will have a considerable problem right now. They cannot develop the draft budget for next year because they don't agree with the general general aspects of this situation. They cannot judge what the oil price would be. They can see the , can see, continue to believe that Russia will have economic growth this year as 1.7%. We should absolutely around when we minus six, 7% and they expecting that next year will be 3% of GDP growth. That what , how they would like to feed people this information that's already UNL style. It means the beginning of the

Speaker 3:

Mikhail. kasyanov the former prime minister of Russia. Great to talk to you as always. And Maria snegovaya via is a fellow w ith the center for European policy analysis and her research includes Russian domestic and foreign policy and a gift to hear both of you today. Give us some perspective on what's happening in Russia. Thanks so much. Thank you. And that's our Russia backstory from London,

Speaker 2:

Dana Lewis, please subscribe the backstory and share it with others. Thanks for listening. Talk to you again very soon.

Speaker 4:

Please listen. https://w ww.buzzsprout.com/1016881/4256 366