Putin’s Approval Rating

Putin’s approval rating continues to climb. Levada Center announced on Wednesday that it has now reached 89%. As I’ve blogged previously, I am skeptical of these numbers.

The Russian blogosphere reacted with its usual snide remarks, and with jokes about when it would reach 146% (a reference to previous elections where voter turnout reached 146%, and the results were clearly falsified).

But beyond the jokes and comics, one blogger had some serious points to make on the dangers of relying on such polls, and why they are inaccurate. Dmitry Chernishev wrote:

To say that this is a national catastrophe is to say nothing. But it is not because… we have the wrong people. No. Politicians who seriously engage in their own country can not be beyond rating. I’ll try to explain why.

He cites three leaders who lost elections after doing great things for their countries.

First, Churchill lost the 1945 elections shortly after leading the UK to victory in World War 2.

Charles de Gaulle lost the election of 1953 after bringing his country into the club of “Great Powers”.

And finally, Mikhail Saakashvili’s party lost an election after he and his party had “led some incredible reforms” despite expectations to the contrary.

What does this mean, Chernishev asks.

1. Any reformist president is doomed to a decline in his approval ratings. His reforms necessarily lead to dissatisfaction of the population, but these reforms are key to the country’s development.

2. The exit of a president from power shows that the elections were, as far as possible, honest. And it ensures the peaceful change of power in the future.

3. The prohibitively high rating of any president is a diagnosis. This rating indicates that all efforts of the state are instead focused on the preservation of power of this one person.

4. The prohibitively high rating indicates that the country has a strong political censorship, which prevents the creation of any competition to the president.

5. The high rating is not a guarantee of an eternal presidency – [Romania’s] Ceausescu had a rating of 100% a week before the unrest in Timișoara.*

*Note: In December 1989, Timișoara witnessed a series of mass street protests in what was to become the Romanian Revolution of 1989.

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