A lot of politicians around the world would probably enjoy doing this: if a pollster is reporting that your popularity is sinking, you sic the prosecutors onto the pollsters.That’s just what Russia’s Vladimir Putin has been doing. Brandishing a new law designed to stain the reputation of NGOs by forcing them to register as agents of foreign powers, the Kremlin is going after the Levada Center, an independent polling firm that’s published findings hostile to Putin and his party. The FT has the story from Russia:
According to pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia, quoting a source in the state prosecutor’s office, the centre received Rbs3.9m ($125,600) between December 26 and March 24 from Italy, the US, Britain, Poland and South Korea. […]On April 17, it published a poll which showed that 55 per cent of Russians wanted to see someone other than Mr Putin elected president when his term ends in 2018.It also publishes a monthly poll showing the percentage of Russians who agree with the statement that the ruling United Russia party is a “party of crooks and thieves”, a phrase coined by opposition leader Alexei Navalny. In April for the first time, a majority of 51 per cent of Russians polled agreed with the slogan.
Tough times for Mr. Putin.The Levada Center does not deny it does contract work for foreigners but says it will refuse to register as an agent of a foreign power. No such order has been issued yet by the authorities, but a search has occurred, Levada confirmed this week.It’s interesting to note what various governments fear. In China they go after news and the Internet; in Argentina it’s the economists. In Russia, it’s the pollsters that appear to be the biggest threat to those in charge.[Putin photo courtesy of Getty Images]