Vladimir Putin’s approval rating has fallen to a record low

  • Opinion poll gives Russian leader least support in two decades
  • Putin has made governors responsible for easing lockdown
Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

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President Vladimir Putin’s approval rating has fallen to a record low amid widening economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic and the slump in oil prices, Russia’s main export earner, an opinion poll showed.null

Support for Putin fell to 59% in April from 63% the month before, the worst result since he came to power in 2000, according to the poll published Wednesday by the independent Moscow-based Levada Center. Its phone survey of 1,608 people was conducted from April 24-27 and had a margin of error of 2.4 percentage points.

“Putin is facing a very difficult and unprecedented situation,” said Andrei Kolesnikov, an analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center. “This economic crisis has hit much faster and harder than ones in the past.”

Russia’s economy is forecast to contract by 5.5% in 2020, according to the International Monetary Fund. The unemployment rate could double to 10% even though companies are trying to avoid lay-offs by reducing pay, government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta reported Tuesday, citing the vice-rector of the state-run Financial Academy, Alexander Safonov.

Russian authorities on Wednesday set out a three-stage plan for gradually lifting the lockdown imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus, without specifying any timetable. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin announced that industry and the construction sector could restart work from May 12, though he kept in place other restrictions that have shuttered all but essential business and confined most of the city’s 12 million inhabitants to their homes since March 30.

Another April 24-27 poll released by Levada on Wednesday showed that fewer than half of respondents — 47% — are prepared to support constitutional changes that would allow Putin to stay in power potentially to 2036 by skirting a ban on serving more than two presidential terms. Lawmakers have approved the revised constitution but the pandemic forced Putin to postpone a popular vote to endorse the changes scheduled for April 22.

State pollster Russian Public Opinion Research Centre, or VTsIOM, in a March 12 survey — two days after Putin endorsed the move to allow him to stay on when his current term expires in 2024 — put backing for the constitutional changes at 64%.null

VTsIOM, whose most recent poll on April 17 showed 50% of respondents favored the reform of the country’s basic law, said Wednesday that the March 12 results in fact had shown support of 46%. It cited a “technical mistake” for the wrong information posted earlier on its website.

Th authorities may have to resort to fraud to ensure the referendum passes when the vote is eventually held, which will undermine Putin’s legitimacy, said Carnegie’s Kolesnikov.

— With assistance by Anna Andrianova


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