Masha Lipman paints a grim portrait of contemporary Russia in today’s Moscow Times
, saying that, at best, consistently high approval ratings for Vladimir Putin over the years represent apathy rather than active choice.
Russian leaders’ high ratings do not […] indicate a rational preference for the incumbents over potential contenders. With political competition in Russia eviscerated, comparison and choice are not part of the political left. Rather, these poll numbers are a “vote” for the status quo. They convey a broadly shared sense that political change is not desired, notwithstanding terrorist attacks, technological catastrophes, lawless police, an unprecedented level of corruption or rigged elections.
During the years of Putin’s leadership, the Kremlin has steadily pushed citizens further and further from decision making by virtually dismantling representative institutions. Gubernatorial elections were abolished six years ago, and even elected city mayors have been progressively replaced by appointed officials. Polls routinely indicate that more than 80 percent of Russians believe that they can make no difference in national or even regional affairs.
This system of political alienation is accepted by an overwhelming majority of Russians. Both the masses and the best and the brightest alike show no interest in political participation. Political opposition groups do not attract public support, which makes it easy for the government to suppress them.
Read the full piece here