Election season here in Moscow has been marked predominantly by Vladimir Putin’s announcement that he will run for president in March. Many critics saw this as confirmation of fears that the country’s politics were calcifying around a personality cult, while supporters welcomed the move as much needed stability in uncertain economic times.
No doubt the party that he has led for the last four years felt his candidacy could propel them to new heights of popularity. So far, however, this hope has proven unfounded. Support for United Russia, as well as support for Putin himself, is actually in steady decline. In their most recent pre-election poll, the independent Levada Center put support for the party at 53 per cent, a significantly lower figure than the 64.3 per cent of the vote the party won in 2007.
But while the public’s enthusiasm for the incumbents may be on the wane, the lack of any real alternatives could strengthen rather than weaken the ruling party’s grip on power.