Competing factions, competing ideas, competing numbers
In my last post, I laid out the three options that Putin’s campaign had to win the presidential election on 4 March. As we get down to the last month before the election it is important to see how things are progressing, and if any decisions have been made by Putin, and his campaign committee. As I noted before, Vyacheslav Volodin is leading the campaign this time around. There are, however, still competing ideas for a strategy to win.
On the one hand, there is a group that is advocating a second round win. Remember, in this scenario, Putin gets between 45-50% of the vote. High enough to look good compared to Zyuganov’s second place 11%, but low enough that a second round is required. Promoted by Stanislav Belkovsky, the group is arguing that a “clean” second round would lend legitimacy to Putin’s next administration. While this is most likely true, and would be the smartest way to go, it does not appear that Volodin is willing to go this route.
Moskovsky Komsomolets is reporting that a message has been sent to the regions that certain results are expected. This is what happened in the Duma elections last fall, where the governors were told that a certain threshold was required percentage-wise. We all saw what has happened to those governors who failed to meet that standard: they were fired (e.g. Volgograd, Arkhangelsk, and Vologda).
Nevertheless, the numbers posted last week by FOM, & Levada make it seem like a second round is practically inevitable. Levada conducted an “open survey”, and did not give the respondents a list to choose from. Only 37% of those polled said that they would vote for Putin if the election were held on Sunday. FOM questioned 3000 potential voters, and got a result of 45%. Both of these numbers, if accurate, would automatically mean a second round of voting. However, VTsIOM came up with a much higher number of 52% for Putin.
While the statistics of these organisations have been called into question, the numbers themselves do not really matter. The way in which they are reported, however, do. This campaign is all about perceptions. Putin understands this important fact. This is why we are not seeing him as much, and why he is meeting with small groups of university students, and judo pupils, rather than large groups (as seen in this video from Sky News).
As far as the articles that Putin has been publishing laying out his alleged agenda for his next term, I am not sure that they have much value as a campaign strategy. They appear to be more valuable as a starting point for dialogue within society about such subjects. This may be the best thing Putin will do for society this year.
Note: I would highly recommend viewing Amanda Walker’s Sky News piece (not only for the gem clip of Putin speaking English).