DMITRI MEDVEDEV GAINS GROUND WITH RUSSIAN CITIZENS

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A favorable sign for Dmitri Medvedev’s succession chances

The approval rating of First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev, whom political analysts regard as Vladimir Putin’s most likely successor, has risen substantially: 17% in mid-November, compared to 9% in October.


The approval rating of First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev, whom political analysts regard as Vladimir Putin’s most likely successor, has risen substantially: 17% in mid-November, compared to 9% in October. Although Medvedev is responsible for the social sphere, usually dangerous for any politician’s image, he has managed to make progress. Further increases in public confidence are possible only if Medvedev is named as Putin’s official successor: a statement from Putin would suffice.

The All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM) does weekly polls to measure the ratings of Russia’s leading politicians. Last week produced a surprise: Dmitri Medvedev moved to a confident lead over his rivals. He improved on his own October result by as much as 8%. This abrupt surge in public confidence can’t be written off as statistical error (1-4%). Yet the past week hasn’t been noted for any major events in which Medvedev could have distinguished himself – not counting the Duma’s first reading of a bill on maternity bonuses, submitted by Medvedev.

The maternity bonus, the government’s as-yet-unrealized measure for improving the demographic situation, probably couldn’t have had such a favorable impact on Medvedev’s image – especially given that the other successor candidate, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, got just as much television coverage that week. Ivanov reported to President Putin on the Russian Navy’s participation in NATO’s Operation Active Effort in the Mediterranean, and attended the opening of the new GRU (army intelligence) headquarters in Moscow. But Ivanov’s rating remained unchanged at around 9-10%.

Experts say that the reason for the rise in Medvedev’s rating has nothing to do with the latest events linked to his name.

“It’s the cumulative effect of the continual promotion of Medvedev on national television,” says Alexei Makarkin, deputy director of the Political Techniques Center. In his view, more and more people are gaining a strong impression that Medvedev is Putin’s most likely successor. Makarkin says: “The general public is more conservative than the experts, who added Medvedev to the list of successor candidates a year ago, when he was transferred from the presidential administration to the government. Only now are ordinary citizens starting to perceive Medvedev as a potential president.”

Further abrupt upswings in Medvedev’s rating are unlikely until President Putin himself makes some sort of significant statement about Medvedev. “At this stage it’s a successor candidate’s rating, not an actual successor’s rating,” says Makarkin.

“Medvedev is the ‘nice’ successor, while Ivanov is the ‘strong’ successor,” says Valery Khomyakov, general director of the National Strategy Council. “And public demand for social security is very strong at present, which favors Medvedev, who has now mastered the role of public politician.”

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