Russia Faces Full-Scale Political Crisis – Report

Russia is facing a full-scale political crisis which may lead to a radical transformation of the country’s ruling system as a result of the growing rivalry between the government and opposition, a report issued by the Moscow-based Center for Strategic Research (TsSR) said.

The report, entitled “Society and Authorities in the Situation of Political Crisis,” sums up the results of a public survey conducted at the request of the Committee of Civil Initiatives, a public organization headed by former Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin.

“The survey shows that the current state of Russia’s society and authorities has many features of a full-fledged political crisis,” the document reads.

“From the society’s side, the crisis reflects not so much the spread of protest-prone social groups as increasing tiredness of political leaders and the ruling elite as a whole,” it states, adding: “Political demands of the population have become more mature and pragmatic.”

TsSR president Mikhail Dmitriyev told RIA Novosti in March the current forecast covered a period of six to nine months.

The report was the third evaluation of the social and political situation in Russia prepared by the non-government think-tank. Two previous surveys, which pointed to the Russian political leadership’s falling popularity and a looming political crisis in the country as a result of growing protest sentiments, were published the Center in 2011.

Following the December 2011 parliamentary election, Russia was hit by a wave of unprecedented street protest, triggered by allegations of mass fraud in favor of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party. Dozens of thousands of people took to the streets in Moscow and other big cities across the country to demand free and fair elections.

The protests prompted the authorities to pass laws easing the registration of political parties and presidential candidates, as well as to reintroduce direct elections of regional governors scrapped in 2004.

The reforms, however, have failed to satisfy the opposition, and protests against Vladimir Putin’s return to the Kremlin have continued in Moscow up until now despite police crackdowns.

TsSR analysts said in their report that measures taken by the Russian leadership in response to their declining popularity “have ensured victory in the parliamentary and presidential elections, but have not stopped the erosion of political support from mass social groups.”

Although the ongoing anti-Putin protests in Moscow have not had broad support beyond the capital, they “have had and will continue having a major influence on the development of the political crisis.”

Moreover, in the face of a possible economic crisis, protest sentiments are likely to spill beyond Moscow and affect larger groups of population, which may lead to the Russian leadership loosing their control of the country, the report said.

The most likely scenarios of for the current political crisis include a government crackdown on the opposition and a radical transformation of Russia’s current power system, the analysts said.

“The risk of political reaction [to defeat the opposition] is increasing, and the vector of [Russia’s] politics will now move towards limiting the pending reforms,” the report said, adding: “Russia’s history knows examples of reforms in that came too late.”

Dialogue between the opposition and advocates of modernization in the government is the only thing that can prevent a collapse of Russia’s political system, the experts concluded.

They have also not ruled out that the newly formed government of Dmitry Medvedev will not last long.

If the government fails to meet the most acute public demands – which include better education, health services, personal security, infrastructure, as well as the rule of law – this may lead to “quick exhaustion of the already weak public support” of Medvedev’s cabinet and its early dissolution. 

Dmitriyev said in March he believed the current parliament could be reelected in three years – two years before the end of its term – and that this may also result in Medvedev being forced out of the prime minister’s office.

The survey was conducted in three stages in March, April and May and involved people of different ages, professions and political views in many cities and towns across Russia.

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