Can demonization not lead to any income tax


Professor Dr. Gerhard Mangott

Professor Dr. Gerhard Mangott

To person

Professor Dr. Gerhard Mangott, political scientist at the University of Innsbruck; Research areas are the domestic and foreign policy of Russia, the Russian gas industry and the EU's energy security in the oil and gas sector.

In the elections, Putin could count on the vast majority of voters who continue to support him. Despite the successes in the mass protests, the opposition does not represent credible competition. Nevertheless, the new president would be well advised to reach out to the protest movement and integrate parts of it into government policy, said G. Mangott.

Vladimir Putin is still considered the anchor of stability for many Russian citizens (& copy AP)

Anchor of stability

This victory is a defeat for those who want to destroy Russia and usurp power. Putin appeared tough and aggressive in his victory speech on March 4th; an outstretched hand looks different. But Putin will have to reach out to moderate members of the urban protests. It was not a "clean victory," as numerous evidence of manipulation shows; Putin's opponents were also clearly disadvantaged in terms of media and administration. But still: the majority of Russian voters are still in Putin's camp, even according to experts critical of the government. This is not least because Putin is seen by the citizens as a more predictable variant. For many, it is still considered an anchor of stability - especially for the less educated, older, lower-income and small-town-rural voters. Putin is also credited with increasing real incomes and securing state transfers. In the weeks leading up to the election, he managed to serve the most diverse hopes and expectations of the voters. Last but not least, Putin's strength is also the result of the colorlessness of his rivals; this applies to the other candidates as well as to the majority of the leaders of the protests, especially the "Yeltsin Liberals" such as B. Nemtsov, W. Ryschkow or M. Kasyanov.

The weakness of the opposition

It is right to object that this is also the result of Putin's strict media control. In recent years, critics of the state-controlled electronic media have been marginalized or demonized. But that doesn't fully explain the opposition's lack of attractiveness. Prokhorov, Navalnyj, Nemtsov or Kasparov were unable to come up with any (convincing) concepts for the country. The harsh and unconditional criticism of the corrupt and authoritarian conditions was indispensable; but that is not enough as a guide to where Russia should develop. This also explains why many of the "old" political functionaries who take part in the protest movement - such as Jawlinsky, Ryzhkov or Kasyanov - are not particularly respected by the demonstrating citizens. Rather, it is writers, journalists and artists like Boris Akunin, Leonid Parfjonow, Sergei Parchomenko or Jurij Shevchuk who are seen as authentic representatives of an urban population who insist on participation; they have joined forces in the "League of Voters". The structural weakness of the movement, however, remains its content heterogeneity, the lack of credibility or the radicalism of some of its leaders. Aleksej Navalnyj, who has just been stylized as a charismatic leader by foreign observers, is indeed an intrepid activist against state corruption and also a convincing campaign speaker, but he is also a radical Russian nationalist who is an activist of the Narod movement. National Russian Liberation Movement] is responsible for racist attacks against Caucasians. Navalnyj's attempt to combine nationalist and liberal approaches allows him to mobilize supporters far beyond the small (re) liberal electorate. The central slogan of the Bolotniki [the demonstrators on the Bolotnaya Ploshchad on December 10 and February 4] - "Russia without Putin" - is shared by only a minority of Russian citizens. From the data of the government-critical Lewada Institute it is clear that only six percent fully support this demand, and only 12 percent the "rather". 29 percent "rather not" and 38 percent "not at all" agree. The willingness to take part in demonstrations is also very low at 13 percent.

A program for Putin

Putin would be well advised to approach the moderate forces, to co-opt part of their agenda, especially effective actions against state corruption. But without political reforms - some of which have already been initiated - the public anger will not end. The formation of the new government is crucial in this regard. Precisely because Putin has lost the trust of many active citizens and is seen as an authoritarian force, a liberal counter-proposal is essential when appointing members of the government. Putin must appoint fresh, young and competent faces to the key functions. It is true that Putin has publicly promised several times that he will entrust the government to Dmitry Medvedev; but it is undisputed that this does not have the strength to convince the moderate forces of the protest movement. The inglorious renunciation of a second term and the announcement of the rokirowka office in September 2011 discredited Medvedev as a strong and independent political figure. Medvedev will hardly be able to re-tie the critical urban public to the regime. To entrust the prudent liberal finance minister Kudrin with this would be a more effective signal for dialogue and readiness for reform internally, but also to the foreign critics of Russia; It would also be wise to accept Prokhorov into the government as a moderate representative of the Bolotniki. Putin has already offered this to Prokhorov, but he's (still) hesitating. However, the resistance of the siloviki to him as the head of the government is too great. Also, Putin cannot be sure to what extent Prokhorov would remain controllable for him in this function. Putin shares personal loyalty with Kudrin and Medvedev, but this does not apply to Prokhorov. Kudrin would not take over the presidency of the government without making conditions. This certainly includes a cut in the long-term spending program for defense. Kudrin will not support the plan, which Putin confirmed during the election campaign, to spend 23 trillion RRP (€ 583 billion) on the modernization of the armed forces by 2020. In addition to personal motives, this plan was one of the decisive reasons for the rift, which was also publicly held, between him and Medvedev. In addition, Kudrin will also call for reforms in the pension system, in particular an increase in the retirement age. But Putin has repeatedly ruled that out in public. Putin can hardly risk antagonizing his "iron constituency" by cutting state transfer payments. In addition, it is unclear whether the recently frozen sales prices for gas, electricity and other municipal services can currently be increased without further weakening Putin's popular support. The government reshuffle will almost certainly only take place after Putin is sworn in as president. The constitution provides that the incumbent government resigns on this occasion.

In the network of old friends

But Putin also has to take other circles of power into account when making these decisions. Some of his leadership are pushing for a more repressive course; this includes representatives from the security and intelligence services. Last but not least, they are concerned about their fortunes, which they could amass in recent years under the protection of their patron Putin. Putin is entangled in a web of kleptocratic ties. A liberal government cabinet would be necessary to balance the more authoritarian-thinking triumvirate of S. Naryshkin (chairman of the State Duma), S. Ivanov and V. Volodin (both in the presidential office). In addition, Putin will have to radically reform the former state party "United Russia". At the end of May, radical decisions are expected at the "Party of Crooks and Thieves" [now the common name for "United Russia"]. A renaming and personnel renewal is possible, but also the dissolution of the network of gray functionaries and careerists. However, Putin will probably continue the tradition of not leading a party as president himself; the "liquidation" or restructuring of the state party would probably have to be carried out by the new chairman of the government. Kudrin and Medvedev's strategies for this can be expected to be different, but here, too, Medvedev's ailing authority will not be helpful in breaking the expected resistance from officials of the state party.

The successes of the mass protests

There is currently no sign of an increase in the number of protests. According to a survey by the Lewada Institute, the willingness to take part in the demonstrations is low. Although 38 percent of those questioned support the demonstrations, 45 percent do not. Moreover, only 3 percent "sure" and 10 percent "more likely" wanted to take part in such manifestations; 30 percent "probably not" and 49 percent "definitely not". In order to reach the small town and rural electorate, social demands and concepts would also have to be formulated. However, an efficient education and health policy and the innovative solution of eroding municipal services cannot be managed by reallocating government spending alone. In addition, a (staggered) increase in income tax from the current 13 percent would be urgently required. But that is likely to be unattractive for many of the high-income urban protest circles. The Bolotniki have already achieved a great deal. The urban citizens cast off political apathy and resigned retreat into private life. The demand for political participation and the desire to put the state's arbitrariness in its place are creative and courageous. But beyond that, concrete, achievable goals must be set in order to create a real alternative to Putin in terms of content. Beyond the core demands for Putin's resignation and the holding of new elections for both the State Duma and the President, however, it is difficult to find a political consensus. The movement must also be able to mobilize the country and the poorer sections of the population. If it is not possible to give this movement an organizational structure and charismatic leadership figures, it will quickly lose its strength. Undoubtedly there are also radical forces among the Bolotniki who are interested in an escalation of the protests, because they only see this as an opportunity to implement the agenda. These certainly include Udalzow and Navalnyj; both provoked OMON's intervention at the demonstration on Pushkin Square. Navalnyj seems to see repressive attacks by the security forces as an opportunity to expand the protests and lead to a decisive confrontation with Putin. The escalative behavior of Navalnyj has already been criticized by some fellow campaigners such as the environmental activist E. Tschirikowa. A revolutionary break is currently not to be expected in Russia. It is also to be discussed whether this can be desirable in view of the current state of the political counter-elite. Gradual changes in content and personnel would be preferable for reasons of stability.