After the surprise Communist candidacy of Pavel Grudinin, the main question was always going to be whether he would merely inherit Zyuganov’s ratings – or climb well above them by invigorating Russians with the prospect of a new face in politics.
We had to wait a couple of weeks longer than usual due to the New Year holidays, but we now have our answer with the release of the first elections poll to include him.
Here is how the numbers now look according to VCIOM:
- Putin – 81.1%;
- Zhirinovsky (nationalist) – 4.2%;
- Grudinin (communist) – 7.6% (Zyuganov had been at 3.3%);
- Sobchak (liberal) – 0.7%
- other people (mostly libs) – 1.6%
- will spoil ballot – 0.4%
- can’t say – 4.4%
It is also worth noting that the percentage of people saying they will “definitely” come to vote fell from 70% to 67%. This might be in response to Navalny’s call to boycott the vote.
1. Unless he turns out to be very unlikeable on the TV cameras in the next couple of months, or experiences some other major scandal, then Grudinin – contrary to my expectations before this poll – will almost certainly do better than Zhirinovsky after all.
2. Incidentally, our resident Ukrainophiles should be happy with this development – in his recent debate with Zhirinovsky, Grudinin as much as implied that the “Russian World” was equivalent to fascism, and for all intents and purposes defended the Ukraine’s new language laws (“we should not fall to provocations”). This comports with the gathering evidence that he is the most pro-Ukrainian candidate in this race apart from the liberal candidate Sobchak, who, like Navalny, does not even unambiguously recognize the Crimea as part of Russia. Tellingly, in one of his recent shows, Grudinin was the only candidate to whom Navalny showed a somewhat positive disposition, even if he still rejected him as a “real” candidate.
And this was the guy nominated not just by the Left Front and the KPRF, but also by one of the more prominent national-patriotic organizations (NPSR). No wonder Igor Strelkov quit soon afterwards in disgust.
3. Renewed prediction [old predictions]:
- Putin – 78% (down from 80%)
- Zhirinovsky – 7% (down from 8%)
- Grudinin – 13% (up from Zyuganov’s 7%)
- Sobchak – 3%
Due to the apparent excitement around the new face, turnout might also be slightly higher than the minimally low 60% I was expecting at the start of the year.
I continue to very much doubt the kremlins will be able to fulfill the first part of their “70/70″ goal (70% turnout, 70% Putin), unless they really go overboard with the fraud this year.
Regardless, his candidacy appears to have been a great play by the Presidential Administration, raising interest in the elections, deflating the impact of Navalny’s calls to boycott them, and presenting no real threat to the Kremlin while sowing further division into the nationalist ranks.