Political scientists: It is too early to say where Putin is leading the country to

Putin's popularity suddenly dropped after the president took office for the second term

About 50 percent of Russians positively estimate Vladimir Putin's activities on the presidential post 100 days after the reelection. The Vremya Novostei newspaper wrote, Russian political scientists attempted to define their attitude to first 100 days since Vladimir Putin's second inauguration and determine the president's perspectives. According to recent opinion polls, Putin has justified hopes of 50 percent of respondents in three months of his second term. Twenty-eight percent, however, stated president's latest 100 days in power have dashed all hopes.

Political scientists believe (opinion polls confirm it too) it is too early to say where the incumbent president is leading the country to. It is not clear yet, if Putin's policy is aimed at the establishment of the liberal western society, or it goes about the vertical integration. In addition, experts believe the president will fail to balance between the interests of various social groups, running radical reforms like the elimination of state benefits, for instance.

Vladimir Putin's rating was kept on the level of 70-75 percent during his first presidential term. As a result of the election in March of the current year, 71.31 percent of Russian people supported the president with the total turn-out of 64.39 percent. Putin's rating, however, dropped below 50 percent in July of 2004, when the president took the office for the second term.

When the election was over, Russian people's activity and enthusiasm decreased. Putin's sliding rating looks natural against such a background. However, it is not clear why the president enjoyed more popularity before the election.

The attitude to the president changed when the second term in the office commenced. Putin exercised his willingness to overcome the severe legacy of Yeltsin's era during his first term and won sympathies among Russian people.

Putin's popularity was growing because of such decisions as the warfare against Chechen terrorists, restriction of governors' rights, tough policy towards industrial and financial groups. Higher oil prices laid the foundation to recreate the Russian economy, the political situation inside Russia settled down.

However, the president has to renovate the policy for another four years of staying in power. It is time new efficient measures should be taken. For the time being Putin has the following goals to pursue: the war in Chechnya, Russia's entry in the WTO, people's living standards, etc. It would be better not to dwell upon Chechnya here. It makes no big difference to Russian people if Russia joins the WTO or not. Living standards, however, are definitely more important. Russia receives fantastic profit from oil sales, but it brings absolutely nothing positive to common people. The reform about the elimination of state benefits added more fuel to the fire. As a result of the reform the state will stop subsidizing public utilities, healthcare, transportation and other social services. The reform has sparked tough protests among the population.

Putin's PR campaign created the image of the president capable of justifying people's hopes. That is why the president should have run the policy meeting people's expectations.

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Author`s name Olga Savka