MOSCOW - Just weeks ahead of Russian parliamentary elections, a new poll has delivered troubling news to the power tandem of Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin. Their ruling party United Russia has lost 9% of its support, with individual approval plunging for both President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin following their recent coordinated announcements that they would seek to fill each others current posts.
Medvedevs approval rating has gone from 77% to 57%, while Putins dropped from 80% to 61%, according to the survey conducted by the Levada Centre think tank. Support for the ruling party dipped from 60% two weeks ago to 51%, with a spike in support for the Communist Party and the Liberal Democrats.
The opposition A Just Russia party has also seen a boost in support, approaching the 7% threshold needed to take seats in the parliament, or Duma. If these figures hold, the Duma will have the same four parties as it does now, but United Russia would have 63 fewer seats. Still, one-third of Russians have not yet decided who to vote for.
Deputy Director of the Levada Center Alexei Grazhdankin told Kommersant the fall in popularity of the ruling party was linked to the decline in support for its two top figures. While he did not predict a collapse of United Russia, Grazhdankin said many voters were offended at the recently announced power swap. There was also dissatisfaction that in the Putin decade, promised goals were not met, including proposed increases to wages and pensions that are negligible compared to price increases.
Medvedev, "after three years in office was perceived as an independent political figure, with a real support group. But people expected real opposition during the electoral cycle, which instead has turned out as it always does, notes Grazhdankin.
Communist State Duma Deputy Sergei Obukhov said that while the Duma elections may not result in failure for United Russia, "a tectonic shift in mass consciousness has already occurred."
Yabloka party leader Sergei Mitrokhin said support for the ruling party is even lower than what any survey shows. United Russia dismissed the latest poll results as a fluctuation.
Read the full story in Russia by Victor Khamraev
*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations
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