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Most Russians positive about first year of Putin’s third presidency

May 07, 2013, 16:49 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

One year ago today, on May 7, 2012, Vladimir Putin took office as Russia’s president for the third time. There will be no official ceremonies on the occasion today, except for a variety of sports events and shows organized by pro-Kremlin youth movements. As for sociologists and political scientists who look back on the results of the first year of Putin’s third presidency, they are unanimous that Putin is now far more skillful and resourceful in building relations with his political opponents and in general feels himself far more confident. At the same time they remark that the ruling duo that emerged during the years of Dmitry Medvedev’s presidency no longer looks what it used to be.

Whatever the case, the president has the support of a majority of the population, as before.

The Public Opinion Fund on Monday published its survey titled Putin: One Year of Presidency. More than 72% of the polled offered positive or neutral comments, and only 16% are critical of Putin’s ability to cope with his presidential duties during the current term.

One in two Russians (50%) pins hopes for fundamental change in the country on Putin personally.

For 34% of Russians Putin’s performance falls short of their expectations of one year ago, and 16% percent offered no comment.

The poll indicates that his popularity even has certain growth potential, the on-line periodical Vzglyad quotes political scientist Nikolai Mironov as saying.

Mironov said that more than half of the respondents attribute “major changes in the country to Vladimir Putin personally.”

“He has the credit for the main achievements in Russia. Among them one should certainly mention political modernization and the anti-corruption crusade,” Mironov said.

Political scientist Dmitry Abzalov told the news agency RENGUM the level of confidence in the president is so high because he embodies the main force capable of fighting with corruption, a force that has both the necessary authority and administrative resources.

“As a matter of fact this precisely what props up the president’s rating. He has the opportunities and the leverage to address these problems. The main group of the electorate believes that the president is capable of addressing the most pressing problems and controlling their solution by the bodies of executive power.”

Last year, which saw a surge in the oppositional movement at the start of Putin’s presidency, was obviously as complicated as useful from the standpoint of political experience, experts say. Political scientists believe that Putin has derived a proper lesson from the challenges he encountered at the start of his third term.

“Putin has changed. Emotionally he is far more reserved. He never loses self-possession,” says political scientist Alexei Mukhin on the NEWSru.com portal. He recalls that during his second presidency Putin occasionally let emotion gain the upper hand over his political position. Some of his statements surely sounded harsh to some.

“Over the past year it has become obvious he seldom loses self-control,” the analyst believes.

On the eve of the presidential inauguration a year ago Moscow saw a rally by out-of-parliament opposition, which for the first time developed into a violent clash with police. The situation has changed cardinally since then. There are no mass rallies. The leaders of non-systemic opposition, once critical of the authorities, now have to turn an attentive ear to criticism from the law enforcement agencies.

“First and foremost Putin offered his response to the demand for the quality and effectiveness of government that came from the people. His first presidency provided a response to society’s demand for order. Putin 2.0 was a response to the demand for stability. And Putin 3.0 is a response to the demand for the quality and effectiveness of government,” a member of the United Russia party’s Supreme Council, political scientist Dmitry Orlov, told the weekly Argumenty I Fakty.

Putin’s reaction to protests is a combination of stick-and-carrot methods, argues the leader or the Republican Party of Russia-Parnas party, Vladimir Ryzhkov.

“He is showing the opposition that he has the stick: criminal proceedings and inspections of non-governmental organizations. But alongside this he offers the carrot - the gubernatorial elections have been restored, although in a rather contracted form. The free registration of parties has been resumed. And single-mandate constituencies have been promised in the next State Duma elections,” Ryzhkov says.

Orlov believes that with this sort of “carrots” Putin has in fact eliminated the phenomenon of non-systemic opposition.

“The opposition now has no problems with participating in politics. Everyone who enjoys real support in society and seeks to act in the normal political space, and not ruin the system, is free to function normally,” Orlov said, adding that some of the former non-systematic opposition affiliates accepted the new rules of the game.

Also, experts have pointed to the fact that the ruling duo that took shape over the four years when Dmitry Medvedev was president and, Vladimir Putin, prime minster, no longer looks what it used to be.

“One of the main developments of Putin’s first year as president is Russia no longer has a regimen of co-government. There is only one person at the helm of power de facto and de jure - Vladimir Putin. There was a diarchy. Now there is an hierarchy,” says the deputy director of the Center for Political Technologies, Alexei Makarkin.

Political scientist Yevgeny Minchenko believes that there has emerged a new model of government where the border lines between the government, the presidential staff and other agencies is very blurred.

“In our survey we dubbed this system of government as Politburo 2.0, or Vladimir Putin’s greater government,” Minchenko said.

And Dmitry Orlov describes the current system as “new monocentrism.”

“Putin is the sole center of making the most important decisions again. The other centers are autonomous to various degrees and they are contesting with each other for the scale of their autonomy,” the political scientist said.