09/06/2018, 10.58
RUSSIA
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Pension protests: 77% of Russians are against Putin's reform

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Data from the Levada Center. At least 53% of respondents are ready to join the protests. A first crisis for Putin's popularity. So far there are no leaders of  the popular protests. There is still the dream of the Soviet-type welfare state.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The analytical center of Jurij Levada (Levada-centr, the most authoritative in Russia) considered the reactions of the Russians to the announced reform of the social security system, which provides for an increase in the retirement age. It is the first true "liberal" measure of the long Putinian reign, shaking the welfare-state certainties still rooted in the population, a legacy of Soviet times.

According to surveys, 53% of respondents are ready to personally join the protests against pension reform in local demonstrations that are increasing day by day in the endless Russian provinces. In a month the percentage of "angry activisits" has increased by more than 10%, drawing mainly from among those who should retire in the coming years, and among the followers of the Communist Party, nostalgic for Soviet supremacy. The survey was carried out at the end of August on about 2000 people of various ages, in 136 urban centers in 52 regions (out of 89 in the Russian Federation).

The sociologists have studied the opinions of the Russians regarding a possible referendum on the reform, actually proposed by different groups, even if unlikely to be realized. At the moment 77% would reject the law, more or less as much as the entire percentage of Putin's electorate.

The same Russian president had intervened in the debate on August 28 with a television interview, in which he announced a "softened" revision of the reform, especially in favor of women. According to the corrections decided by Putin, the age of the female pension would drop to 60 years, and even less for the mothers of large families, for which all the current system reductions would be retained. Moreover, again on a decision by Putin, it will be more difficult to dismiss those who are close to retirement.

Despite these corrections, the opinion of the people remains strongly negative, casting serious doubt on the president’s popularity for the first time. Many are willing to take to the streets, but in this case there is a notable absence of leaders of the protest, both among the "institutional" communists and liberal-nationalists of Žirinovskij, and among the "populists" at Naval'nyj. If any of them - or another figure that can still emerge - could interpret the protest of the masses, it would perhaps be an opportunity to form a first real "opposition" to the current regime in twenty years.

Nikolaj Mironov, director of the Center for Economic and Political Reforms, maintains that the population that has supported Putin for many years sees a "violation of the social agreement" in this reform, preventing liberal reforms and preserving the pillars of the post- Soviet welfare state. For now, protests are still sporadic and limited in participation; the most attended was organized by the Communists in the center of Moscow, Sunday, September 2, with the presence of almost 10 thousand people (according to estimates of the Russian PC coordinator, Dmitry Ionov, for the police headquarters there were 6 thousand). Russia is increasingly leaning towards its past, but the future seems full of unknowns.

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