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Protests in Moscow show that the power of the president can diminish



Police detain lone protesters on Arbat Street. Illegal rallies in support of independent candidates disqualified from the Moscow City Elections are being held in Moscow on July 27, as well as against the arrests of participants on August 3.

Gabriel Grigorov | TASS | Getty Images

The protests observed in Moscow in recent weeks show that President Putin's power in Russia may not be as strong as ever, according to experts.

Authorities have banned dozens of opposition candidates from running for the Moscow City Council elections in September. Restrictions have caused thousands of protesters to take to the streets of the capital in recent months.

Officials have been heavily criticized for downloading demonstrations. A rally in July resulted in the arrest of more than 1

,000 protesters, and police were called for their heavy hand. According to experts, the protests are a sign of diminishing patience with Putin and the lack of a political majority in Russia.

"Life becomes more difficult and difficult for Vladimir Putin after 20 years in power, where the standard of living is now decreasing quite significantly as a result of the oil price not rising as it was in the first 15 years of his reign. . And of course sanctions and corruption (are) hitting more, "James Nixi, Russia's and Eurasia's program manager at Chatham House, told CNBC last week.

Oil price drop

The standard of living and costs affected in recent years by Russia's wider economic crisis following a sharp drop in oil prices (Russia's natural resources such as oil and gas are estimated at 60% of its GDP) and continuing sanctions imposed on the country after Crimea's annexation and support his uprising in eastern Ukraine.

Ru the mars fell (the dollar rose about 90% against the currency since the beginning of 2014), sending a rise in inflation still underway by the central bank. The International Monetary Fund lowered its forecast for Russia's GDP growth in 2019 ( Gross Domestic Product) to 1.2% in July, saying its decline reflected a weak first quarter forecast, lower oil prices and the impact of higher tax rates on private consumption. [19659010] Nixi notes that while the recent protests over the weekend in August were triggered by dissatisfaction with opposition party candidates, the broader "macro" picture was expressed by growing discontent with Putin's rule.

"If you want a broader macro view, then it's been 20 years since Vladimir Putin was appointed Prime Minister and subsequently President of Russia. It's a long time whether you're an autocrat or a Democrat – obviously he's the former," Nixi said.

"This means that life becomes more difficult if you are not in a fully authoritarian system, and Russia is a semi-authoritarian system in which the lid is slightly turned off and allows some protests and they can snow."

Pension reforms

Putin certainly takes care of the snowball situation. Meeting with his French counterpart in southern France last week, who criticized the crackdown on protests, Putin rebuked President Emmanuel Macron, saying he did not want the same yellow-card protests that plagued France for many years.

Putin can still quote. the approval ratings collected by the independent poll, the Levada Center, as proof that he is still a popular leader and more than other Western leaders can boast. In July, Putin's approval rating was 68%, data show, although his rating has been gradually decreasing since he rose in 2014 after annexing Crimea by Ukraine from Ukraine.

Nixi believes Putin's approval ratings are far lower than published, however, believing it to be closer to the 40-50% level. The Russian leader's popularity hit last year when the government introduced unpopular pension reforms and a surge in consumption tax earlier this year.

Ratings for Putin's Approval

There are few political opponents who can respond to Putin's credentials, experience or leadership or profile, however. Another poll by the Levada Center in July showed that most Russians do not know who else they could rely on for leadership other than Putin.

Tatiana Stanova, a non-resident scientist at the Carnegie Center in Moscow, told CNBC that Putin's disapproval was increasing.

"In Russia, we have growing discontent among ordinary Russians, and this is evident from the falling approval ratings of Putin. The decline began in June 2018, so it is a common process," she said. Stanovaya noted that the protests in Moscow began as a local movement but were nationalized due to the perceived harshness of the authorities' reaction.

"At first, it was (a) conflict in Moscow, but the Kremlin's support for the harsh tactics by the authorities meant it was a federal case and a federal agenda," she told CNBC last week. She believed that Putin underestimated the situation: "He thinks it will calm down, but I don't think so. I think he will have to face some long-term risks from parts of Russian society," dissatisfied with his rule she noted. [19659002] Analysts emphasize that the demonstrations have now become protests of solidarity in the arrested and detained. There is also a belief that protests can gather momentum and morph from a more localized character to a more national one.

"How the authorities dealt with the problem, the initial protest led to another issue," Otilia Dhand, senior vice president at Teneo Intelligence, told CNBC. "Generally, they now allowed one of the opposition candidates to run (in the elections), but that did not get rid of the problem.

" But I think the real red flag for the Kremlin would be if these protests in Moscow spread to other more "secondary" cities in Russia. Moscow is its own world and people outside the city may not be particularly interested in what is happening there, but the risk is if there are different complaints in other parts of the country. they are becoming a broader anti-government movement, "she said.


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