Russian voters appear to approve constitutional changes that could extend Putin’s reign
Experts believe that the measures proposed by President Putin are not enough to overcome poverty, but the amendments to the Constitution will further restrict the rights of Russian citizens
In his traditional message to the Federal Assembly, which was voiced on Wednesday by Russian President Vladimir Putin and soon followed by the resignation of the government of Dmitry Medvedev, the head of state, in addition to cardinal constitutional changes, focused on the demographic problem, overcoming poverty and raising the level of income of the population. Experts also drew attention to the fact that Putin proposed to consolidate the priority of Russian laws over any international treaties – that is, they should be observed only if they do not contradict the Russian Constitution..
Actually, it was not a secret. The main topics of Putin’s speech were previously announced by himself and his press secretary Dmitry Peskov.
In an interview with TASS on the eve of his message to the Federal Assembly, the President of the Russian Federation admitted: “We are worried, I am very worried that there has been stagnation in the real income of the population.”.
The real disposable income of citizens has been falling over the past five years.
According to a survey by the Levada Center, in 2019, 43% of Russians noted that the standard of living in the country is deteriorating. At the same time, 42% of respondents complained that it became more difficult to make good money, and 41% felt that there was more inequity in the distribution of material wealth..
To improve the situation in the field of poverty and incomes of the population, Vladimir Putin proposed a number of measures, in particular, aimed at supporting large families. So, he talked about the need to increase the size of maternal capital and index it taking into account inflation, about the introduction of monthly payments for children from 3 to 7 years old, free hot meals for schoolchildren from grades 1 to 4, and so on..
According to the head of the Accounts Chamber Alexei Kudrin, the initiatives put forward by the president will cost the budget 400-500 billion rubles a year, media reported..
Director of the Institute for Globalization and Social Movements (IGSO) Boris Kagarlitsky I am not surprised that the president’s team is “looking for salvation” today precisely in social policy. In his opinion, this is due to the fact that the population is extremely dissatisfied with their economic situation, and the popularity of the authorities, United Russia and Putin himself is steadily declining..
“It’s another matter that the authorities again understand social policy not as complex changes in living conditions, but as a series of concessions, handouts to certain specific groups of the population,” he added in a commentary for the Russian service of the Voice of America. “That is, they remain absolutely within the framework of the traditional electoral scheme based on targeted assistance to the weak and the least protected.”.
Today, there is still no talk of creating a truly social state that provides conditions for the development of the individual, the labor potential of people, employment and so on, the sociologist states. In his opinion, the emphasis is placed on compensation for “the already ineradicable vices of the old system.” And in this sense, it is quite understandable that Putin’s approach, for all its seemingly social orientation, has not changed at all, he argues..
On the other hand, as it seems to Boris Kagarlitsky, the message to the Federal Assembly revealed the authorities’ awareness that they need to look for new ways of communicating with the population in order to win the sympathy of at least some part of the people..
“It’s important that if earlier the emphasis was on the older generation, on pensioners, who have always been the core of Putin’s electorate, now the ruling circles have noticed that they are losing pensioners as a support, and at the same time have completely ruined relations with people of average age. And again, they are trying to compensate for this within the framework of family support, which is technically, in general, correct, ”summed up the director of the IGSO.
Sociologist and publicist, former secretary general of the Union of Journalists of Russia Igor Yakovenko believes that the President’s appeal to the problems of poverty was caused, in fact, by the unilateral termination of the social contract, when the retirement age was raised. According to him, this led to scandalous consequences for the authorities..
“It is clear that the population has reacted sharply to the so-called pension reform,” he stressed in a comment to the Russian service of the Voice of America. – Because such that the party in power was forced to hide, going to the elections under various masks, has never been observed before. Governors and representatives of United Russia were guaranteed not to go anywhere in Moscow or in other regions, so they had to act as self-nominated candidates. “.
This showed that the real ratings of Putin and the ruling party are in fact negligible, says Igor Yakovenko. It seems to him that Putin tried to win back the lost positions.
“The rhetoric related to overcoming poverty was connected with this. Since poverty cannot be overcome in this way, rather populist measures such as increasing the size of maternity capital and bonuses for class teachers in the amount of 5 thousand rubles are aimed at trying to restore ratings. This is obvious enough, “he concluded..
Both experts agreed that the measures declared by the president would not allow solving the problem of impoverishment of the population, especially with an increase in the income of citizens, although a certain short-term effect could have.
As for the political reforms proposed by Vladimir Putin, Boris Kagarlitsky expressed doubts about their effectiveness: “Even against the background of the call to slightly improve the situation with parliamentarism, to give a little more rights to the federal assembly, including the election of the prime minister, further restrict the judiciary by giving the president the power to remove judges from the Supreme and Constitutional Courts. Given that Putin already actually controls the judiciary. In a word, the principle of separation of powers is eliminated not in fact, but de jure “.
Against this background, the situation with the expansion of the rights of parliament should be understood only in such a way that it will be given rights exactly to the extent that the president’s team will need it, and not to the extent that it is required to get a full-fledged working institution, the sociologist concluded..
In turn, Igor Yakovenko is convinced that the amendments to the Constitution actually mean that international law finally ceases to operate on the territory of the Russian Federation..