Russia needs 'third man' in 2012 polls: study

28th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russia's leaders are increasingly mistrusted and there is a growing desire for an alternative to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin or President Dmitry Medvedev in 2012 polls, a study said Monday.

The report by the pro-government think-tank Centre for Strategic Research said an unfair 2012 presidential election win by either Dmitry Medvedev or Vladimir Putin may lead to a crisis similar to one that brought down the USSR.

"People have not only stopped fearing a 'third person' but are beginning to wish for his emergence," said the report, based on the group's own polling and focus group work.

"The most important change in the political consciousness of Russians over the last eight months consists not just of a fall of trust in the tandem and its participants but also a growth in demand for a 'third' person."

The past year has seen an onset of a "political crisis" in Russia as ratings of Medvedev, Putin, and the ruling party United Russia fell by 12, 21, and 18 percent, respectively, it said.

Observers in Russia have closely watched for an indication of whether Medvedev will seek re-election or if Putin is likely to run again. The leaders have said that they will decide between themselves which one of them will run.

But based on the think-tank's polling, it said that "Medvedev seems an unelectable figure" while Putin is gaining "anti-electorate" among not just the opposition but wider society that accuses him of acting in self-interest.

If the trend of falling trust in authority keeps strong over the next year, Russia will arrive at a political crisis that could "in its intensity surpass the end of the 1990s and closely approach the end of the 1980s," it added.

"The report is directed to the country's top officials, who don't evaluate the situation in the country or their position in it very realistically," one of the report's authors, Sergei Belanovsky, told the Echo of Moscow radio.

"Any product, including a political one, has a set life-cycle," he said.

So far there has been little sign of a third force emerging in Russian politics, although the "tandem" of Putin and Medvedev shows signs of wear and the two leaders even have some public disagreements.

But speculation that Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov may head the liberal Right Cause party has recently sparked interest, and usually reserved Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin issued striking warnings against unfair elections.

Last week, the president and prime minister had their biggest clash ever over the Western military action in Libya, with Medvedev snapping that Putin's use of the word "crusade" was "unacceptable".

A report in Vedomosti newspaper Monday said that the leaders' respective teams schedule meetings at identical times, forcing top officials to choose "whether to go to Medvedev or whether to go to Putin."

"Once it finds out the timetable for Medvedev's meetings, Putin's office, seemingly on purpose, sets meetings with the premier at exactly the same time," the paper quoted a Kremlin official as saying.

The official described the coordination issues as "games" to create an illusion of personal competition between Medvedev and Putin when in fact it is their teams who are competing.

The report by the Centre for Strategic Research was published on the heels of another report last week by a different Kremlin-friendly think tank INSOR, which backed Dmitry Medvedev and laid out a strategy for his second term as president.

© 2011 AFP

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