Putin: Unpopular? Photo credit: World Economic Forum
Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party has dropped sharply in popularity ahead of the December parliamentary elections. Only 51 percent of respondents to a Levada Center poll said they would vote for the party, down from 60 percent. United Russia has been criticised for recent election tactics, such as releasing a steamy campaign ad.
Poll disappointment. The poll also indicated that Putin, who is running for a third non-consecutive term as president in 2012, has lost personal support: his approval rating is at its lowest level for ten years. According to The Moscow Times, a Levada official suggested the surprise result may be down to “a delayed reaction after Putin and Medvedev revealed on Sept. 24 that they plan to swap jobs next year, with Putin running for president and making Medvedev prime minister”.
Video nasty? Meanwhile, United Russia has come under fire for the party’s latest election ad, which shows a man and a woman flirting at a polling station. The woman drags the man into an election booth; both eventually emerge with dishevelled clothing and drop their ballots into a box. Miriam Elder reported for The Guardian that Opposition Duma deputies were unimpressed, not so much by the saucy implications but by the suggestion of constitutional wrongdoing: “According to the law, a person who drops their ballot in the box must be in the booth completely alone,” Elder quoted a Just Russia deputy as saying.
Poster controversy. What’s more, Natalya Krainova and Vladimir Tyurin reported for The Moscow Times that United Russia’s posters have come in for criticism: “In a seemingly sinister attempt at subliminal advertising, United Russia has been plastering the city in campaign posters that are nearly identical to ones used by elections officials to encourage people to vote in December,” they wrote. United Russia officials have dismissed complaints about the campaign.
Lean on Russia? Writing on a New York Times blog, two members of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party (ELDR) called for Western powers to lean on Russia to ensure fair elections: “The time has come to acknowledge openly and honestly that Russia is not a democracy, but an increasingly fragile state run by an authoritarian regime that aims to bully not only its own citizens but also the rest of the world,” they said. However, politicians from Russia’s liberal Yabloko party wrote a response piece arguing that although Russian elections “are not free and fair”, putting international pressure on Russia would backfire: “Russians do not like to be leaned on,” they insisted.