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Change is coming to Russia, but very slowly

20 31 0

In 2014-2015, the occupation of Crimea sent Russian President Vladimir Putin's approval ratings soaring to as much as 86 percent and kept them high for a few years. Over the past few months, however, his popularity has steadily declined and reached 66 percent - roughly as much as it was back in 2012-2013, when he was facing mass protests.

This trend is related to the decline in people's real incomes after Russia's recent economic crisis. One event, in particular, contributed greatly to Putin's rising unpopularity: the 2018 decision to raise the retirement age.

The optics get worse when citizens are polled on major political institutions; roughly two-thirds of Russians disapprove of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and his government, while a solid majority hold negative views on the State Duma and local governors.

In Moscow, traditionally a hotbed of discontent, the ruling United Russia party, formally headed by Medvedev, has become so unpopular that its candidates have been forced to run as independents in the city council elections, due in September.

The low popularity of those in power, however, has not really translated yet to major gains for the Russian opposition, which has struggled to mobilise its own support base for a variety of reasons.

First, various legal and bureaucratic barriers the Kremlin has put in place over the past few years to prevent popular mobilisation and free electoral competition are working. Opposition candidates are disqualified from running for office on a regular basis either on flimsy "technical" grounds or simply for failing to fulfil a variety of impossible........

© Al Jazeera