PRAGUE, 29 February, Caucasus Times – One of the most striking and at the same time predictable phenomenons of the political life in Russia in the first months of 2008 is unprecedented rise in popularity of Dmitry Medvedev, who beat all other presidential candidates in Russia during very short period of time. Results of the most recent opinion poll held by research company VCIOM released on 21 February 2008 indicate that official Putin’s “successor” with 72.9% of public support is going to win in the Russian presidential elections.
It is worth of noting that Medvedev’ popularity started its unprecedented growth right after this previously rank-and-file Russian politician from Putin’s inner circle was proclaimed by Putin his official “successor”. Results of the recent opinion polls indicate that in terms of popularity as presidential candidate Medvedev successfully beat not only other representatives of Putin’s political clan, but also such veterans of Russian political scene as Communist Gennady Zyuganov and Liberal Democrat Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Sharp rise in Medvedev’s popularity stems from PR-activities of pro-Kremlin media and political structures and official support of Putin, who uses all possibilities to promote Dmitry Medvedev both at home and abroad.
Public opinion polls conducted by information agency “Caucasus Times” in the fall 2007 enabled to get unique information about the attitudes of the population in the North Caucasus towards presidential elections and about personal preferences of the population. The fact that polls were conducted before December 2007 when Medvedev was proclaimed Putin’s official “successor” is of particular value since poll results reflect real popularity of Medvedev as autonomous politician who at that time was not fully associated with the official blessing of Putin, who is still enyoing very high popularity among Russians.
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Responses of those polled to a question “in your opinion, are presidential elections going to have impact on your republic and if yes, what impact?” indicate that almost half of all respondents (47%) don’t connect with presidential elections any hopes for changes in their republics. At the same time, expectations about the presidential elections proved to be somewhat more pronounced than in case of parliamentary elections. Thus, more than half of those polled (57%) said they don’t expect that Duma elections can lead to any changes in their republics.
Sceptical attitudes towards potential possibility of presidential elections to have impact on situation in the North Caucasus are most popular among the residents of the capital of Kabardino-Balkaria Nalchik and the capital of Dagestan Makhachkala. Thus, 57% of Nalchik residents and 54% of Makhchkala residents are certain about the fact that presidential elections are not going to have any impact on their republics. At the same time, in the capitals of Ingushetia and Karachaevo-Cherkessia only minority think that presidential elections are not going to influence their republics. I Ingushetian Nazran 39% and in Karachevo-Cherkessian Cherkessk 42% said that elections of president would not have any influence on their republics.
Among those in the North Caucasus who think that presidential elections will have some impact on situation in the North Caucasus, most people expect positive (11%) or “rather positive” (13%) consequences of the presidential elections. Only 7% think that elections will have negative influence and 11% – “rather negative” influence. However, expectations about the results of presidential elections are distributed across the North Caucasus region quite unevenly.
It is interesting that residents of Ingushetian Nazran are the most optimistic about the presidential elections. 23% of Nazran residents expect “positive” and 14% – “rather positive” results of the elections. Residents of Chechen capital Grozny are also quite positive about the elections. Thus, 20% of Grozny residents expect positive and 8% – “rather positive” results of the elections.
Pessimists dominate in the Republic of Dagestan and also in Karachaevo-Cherkessia and North Ossetia. Thus, 15% of those polled in Makhachkala are sure about “rather negative” and 12% – about “negative” consequences of the presidential elections. Only 7% of respondents in Makhachkala think elections will have positive and 6% – “rather positive” results. Among the residents of Makhachkala, overall number of pessimists (27%) is more than twice higher than the overall number of optimists (13%). It should also be mentioned that Makhachkala residents turned out to be the most sceptical about the consequences of State Duma elections.
In the North Ossetian Vladikavkaz and in Karachaevo-Cherkessian Cherkessk overall numbers of pessimists expecting “negative” or “rather negative” consequences of the presidential elections turned out to be 20% respectively.
Very high number of those polled in the North Caucasus capitals (11% in total) reported difficulties in respodning to that question. The highest number of those who could not provide answer about possible concequences of the presidential elections was in Chechen capital Grozny (14%) and in Karachaevo-Cherkessian Cherkessk (14%). Least number of respondents who reported difficulties answering this question was in Dagestani capital Makhachkala (6%).
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Respondents’ answers to a question “whom would you prefer as next Russia’s president” revealed still high popularity of V. Putin among the population in the North Caucasus. Putin proved to be the most popular in Dagestani Makhachkala (61%), in Kabardino-Balkarian Nalchik (56%) and in the North Ossetian Vladikavkaz (43%). On the contrary, the least number of Putin’s supporteres was identified in Chechen Grozny (only 11%).
It is worth of noting that current Russian prime-minister Victor Zubkov turned out to be the second most popular presidential candidate in the North Caucasus (13%). As with Putin, Zubkov’s popularity was unevenly distributed throughout the region. Zubkov enjoys the highest popularity in the capital of Chechnya (32%) and in the capital of Karachaevo-Cherkessia (29%) while the residents of Dagestani Makhachkala are rather sceptical about him (only 4% of Makhachkala residents were in favor of Zubkov as next Russia’s president).
Sergei Ivanov and Dmitry Madvedev with 10% support throughout the region shared the third place. Sergei Ivanov enjoys the highest popularity in the capital of Karachaevo-Cherkessia (21%) and in the capital of Chechnya (14%), where Mevedev has only 10% and 2% of supporters respectively. In his turn, Dmitry Medvedev is the most popular in Kabardino-Balkarian Nalchik (16%), where Ivanov has 10% support, and in Ingushetian Nazran (15%), where only 1% supported Ivanov. In the North Ossetian Vladikavkaz Ivanov (11%) is much more popular than Mevedev (5%). It should be noticed that S. Ivanov as presidential candidate beat Medvedev in Chechnya, Karachaevo-Cherkessia and North Ossetia while Medvedev beat Ivanov in Kabardino-Balkaria, Dagetan and Ingushetia.
The fifth most popular presidential candidate is Dmitry Kosak (3%), federal center representative in the North Caucasus. Kosak is the most popular among the residents of Vladikavkaz (10%) and Cherkessk (6%). Leaders of CPRf Zyuganov and LDPR Zhirinovsky, in spite of high awareness and noticeable popularity of their parties in the region, are not perceived by the overwhelming majority of the North Caucasus residents as suitable to be presidential candidates.
Quite interesting result of the polls is high popularity in Chechnya of the former speaker of Russian Supreme Soviet Ruslam Khasbulatov (13%), who beat Putin (11%). Only Zubkov (32%) and Ivanov (14%) proved to be more popular than Khasbulatov in Grozny. R. Khasbulatov enjoys some popularity also in Ingushetian Nazran (3%).
Results of the opinion polls suggest that before Medvedev was provlaimed Putin’s “successor” his popularity in the North Caucasus region was just 10%, which was significantly lower than popularity of Putin and Zubkov.
Attitudes of almost half of those polled towards the presidential elections can be characterized as indifferentsince 47% are sure that elections are not going to have any impact on their republic. At the same time, 24% demonstarte cautious optimism thinking that elections would have positive (11%) or “rather positive” (13%) impact. 18% of respondents believe elections would have negative or “rather negative” consequences.
The most pessimistic attitudes towards presdinetial elections are characteristic for Dagestani Makhachkala, which is the capital of the most densely populated and ethinically diverse republic in the North Caucasus. Almost one-third (27%) of the population in Makhachkala think elections would result in negative or rather negative consequences while only 13% are optimist or rather optimistic about the impact of the elections.