August 14, 2016 –
By Eduard Popov for Fort Russ
Translated by J. Arnoldski
Election campaigns for the State Duma (Russia’s lower house of parliament) are in full swing with the “party of power,” United Russia, and its leader Dmitry Medvedev, being faced with obstruction. Especially noticeable in these elections has been the campaign to discredit Medvedev. The most notorious manifestation of this campaign to discredit United Russia is the focus on the unsuccessful statement of Dmitry Medvedev on teachers’ salaries which he voiced on August 4th during a meeting with teachers in the Republic of Dagestan.
Medvedev is the leader of United Russia whose name is first on the party’s pre-elections list. It has been suggested that this campaign could be the result of a struggle within the apparatus put up by those who want to sweep Medvedev out of the post of Prime Minister. But there is also reason to believe that the order for this smear campaign came from a foreign organization. One fact that speaks in favor of this theory is that the American portal change.org published a petition calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Medvedev that gained more than 100,000 signatures in a day. Overall, the petition posted on the website on August 4th and addressed to Russian President Vladimir Putin has been signed by 200,000 people. If this theory is true, then the aim of this campaign is not so much discrediting Medvedev as it is seriously damaging the image of the United Russia party.
Admittedly, the target of this blow was chosen very successfully. Prime Minister Medvedev does not enjoy wide popularity and support among society and barely held a high approval rating (at least until these events). Even more unpopular are some members of his cabinet from the liberal financial-economic and humanitarian bloc. On July 27th, one of the leading sociological agencies in Russia, the Levada Center, published a survey on sympathies towards political and state figures that was conducted in 48 of the country’s regions (more than half). As one would expect, Russian President Vladimir Putin enjoyed a huge lead, whose activities in the post of President of the Russian Federation satisfied 82% of respondents. Only 17% of respondents assessed his activities negatively.
The Prime Minister and head of the United Russia party enjoyed a significantly lower approval rating. 55% of respondents approve of Dmitry Medvedev’s work as Prime Minister, while 44% responded that they do not agree with him. Sociologists also asked respondents to name public figures whom they trust the most. First place was taken by Putin (53%), while the head of state, Medvedev, received only 16%. This figure might have declined even further today following the above-mentioned scandal in Dagestan.
Let us cite one such poll. According to public opinion indices of the Levada Center as published on June 24th, 54% of Russians have a positive attitude towards the United Russia party while 17% negatively relate to the party and 24% are neutral. The party’s high rating can be explained by Russian society’s record level of support for President Putin. Although he has distanced himself from United Russia, Putin is the party’s founder and his unquestionable successes in certain areas (foreign policy, military construction, etc.) impact support for the “party of power” (a term used to describe United Russia even though it is not quite correct from a legal standpoint).
The campaign to discredit United Russia, the government, and their leader Dmitry Medvedev is an obvious attempt to prove to Russian society that United Russia is not the party of Putin (the ultra popular president), but the party of Medvedev, the little-popular prime minister. 44% of respondents negatively assessed the government’s course and only 16% supported the prime minister, which is an extremely negative result among evaluations of government policy.
There are grounds to believe that the results of September 18th’s elections will be either completely or partially unrecognized by certain Western countries. The US and its clients in the European Union can apply the tactic they successfully tested at the Olympics in Rio, where baseless and unsubstantiated charges of doping were brought against Russian athletes. Something similar can be expected in regards to State Duma election results. No matter what results are obtained by the “party of power” or its competitors in the opposition parties, they will be called “deliberately falsified.” Of course, this is just a a prediction, but it is based on several facts: the campaign to discredit Russia in the international Olympic movement, the launch of a campaign against Prime Minister Medvedev on an American website, and, finally, the absurd accusations against Russia and the totally illogical rebuttals of Ukraine surrounding the recent incident in Crimea.
To emphasize, a campaign for discrediting the official results of elections to the Duma is already in full swing. It is enough to read press data and especially what is being written on social networks. This work is being done on a regional level as well, particularly in Russia’s problematic South. Some resident of the Rostov region is collecting signatures for yet another petition calling for the Russian government head, Dmitry Medvedev, to be “punished” for his sensational words on teachers’ incomes.
As was the case with Ukraine just before the Euromaidan, there were plenty of grounds to criticize the government’s course and especially the activities of certain officials. But, as I’ve already written in an article on elections in Dagestan, the cure might be worse than the disease. This “cure” is apparently the nomination of politicians or parties of a pro-Western, liberal orientation. In my next article, I will discuss in greater detail the participation of these forces in the election campaign.