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Vladimir Putin’s increasingly fragile future

Since its outbreak early this year, the coronavirus has brought about a massive human toll around the world. The biggest political price could be paid by none other than long-serving Russian strongman Vladimir Putin.

A bit of history is necessary here. Not numerous dictators end up being in power for two decades or longer. A 2019 American Foreign Policy Council study revealed that just 35 of 120 posts – World War II dictators who ruled over countries of 10 million or more stayed in power for too long. Of those 35, 15 of them representing (42%) were forcibly removed from power or killed. The average age of them at the period they lost their power was 73, while just six of them left the political scene before they turned 68.

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These figures are crucial in the case of Russia today because Vladimir Putin who turns 68 this October has been in office for 20 years now.

Of course, Putin is well aware of these statistics. He has so far continued to stay in power because he understands the dangers to his rule and has moved quickly to take them off the scene through the use of

1.      Internal repression.

2.      External distraction which includes Syria and Ukraine helped to feed his domestic propaganda. At the same time, he has made his elites richer due to their continued support essential to his remaining in power.

Due to this, those who are collectively able to mount any meaningful challenge to his power have not been able to do so. Putin simply looked too strong. However, in recent times, that popularity has waned significantly.

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In the two years since Putin’s recent election in March 2018, popular trust in his him has fallen significantly from 60% to 35%. Similarly, an April poll by Russia’s Levada Centre revealed that only 46% of Russians saw Putin’s measures against the coronavirus to be right.

In fact, there is reason to make conclusions that Putin’s actual approval rating is significantly worse. All polling groups in the country are under huge pressure to make Putin look good. Also, beyond the issue of how pollsters handle the real figures, we also have to consider the accuracy of the answers given out. Fear has returned in Russia and numerous people simply would be afraid to tell an unknown person their views of the country’s leader.

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However, it is not difficult to comprehend why some Russians do not approve of his rule or like him. Real incomes in the country have fallen in five of the previous six days. That points to a protracted stagnation. Indeed, since 2014, the Russian economy’s average growth rate has been a measly 0.6 which is a fifth of the global average. It should hardly come as a surprise that more than half (53%) of 18-24-year-olds want out of the country.

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