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Putin’s dilemma

4 March 2012

3:21 PM

4 March 2012

3:21 PM

If you enjoy scoring tiny but likely returns on your wagers, then how
about putting some money down on Vladimir Putin to win today’s presidential election in Russia? William Hill are currently offering odds of 1/100, if you’re interested. Like John Simpson, writing
for this week’s Spectator, they regard this as ‘Russia’s Coronation Day’. A near cert.

The rest of Simpson’s article is worth reading, but it’s his conclusion that we’ll pull out here. Putin, he says, will ‘walk it in the first round’ today, but his medium-term future
looks far less secure:

‘Russia is changing. It can’t simply be told to shut up any more. Soon — not within six years, perhaps, but probably within 12 — people who regard themselves as
middle-class will outnumber the traditional, malleable masses. When a BBC programme vox-popped people in Moscow the other day about the supposed assassination plot against Putin, they
couldn’t find anyone who believed it. He’s a shoe-in at this election; but the shoe may not fit all that much longer.’

It’s a persuasive point, although I’d say it forms only half of Putin’s dilemma. As I’ve blogged before, Putin’s rule has largely been predicated on bringing propsperity and wealth to his
country. If that starts to slip — and there are signs that it might — then all of Russia’s voters may turn against him. But if he continues to deliver, then he could just be bolstering
the ranks of those discerning middle classes that Simpson writes about.

So far as his prospects are concerned, Putin has to strike a weird and fragile balance between economy and demography. The odds of him succeeding, in the end, are some way longer than 1/100.

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