Putin has orange trouble
Looks like Putin is facing unrest from the old-age pensioners who have been the mainstay of his support. He has cut their pensions and free transportation access. Country wide protests have been staged protesting this decision and has made him much more unpopular. According to an article from the AP, Putin's recent decision to centralize his control and to appoint local governors as well as handle many local decisions from Moscow is the culprit. As we well know, the further you get away from the problem, the worse the solutions. That's why we conservatives are always struggling for more state's rights and for less federal control over local matters.
It doesn't help that people have had the recent example of the orange revolution in Ukraine, even though news of the happenings in Ukraine were severely censored and also distorted. People in that part of the world are used to reading between the lines (just as Americans have had to do in filtering the distortions of our own mass media).
Putin will continue to try to consolidate his power, but increasingly he is going to run into the same kinds of problems. This is not your father's Soviet Union.
Here's the article:
Failure to Implement New Social Law in Russia Shows Inefficiency of Kremlin's Rule, Analysts Say
By Maria Danilova
Associated Press Writer
MOSCOW (AP) - President Vladimir Putin's moves to tighten control over legislators and regional leaders has jeopardized the Kremlin's grip on the nation, analysts said, pointing to widespread protests over legislation replacing benefits for millions of Russians with cash stipends.
In a domestic defeat that follows several foreign policy embarrassments, Putin was forced to respond Monday to growing anger over the unpopular social reform, promising a pension increase and calling for
state-subsidized public transport passes.
Increasingly cut off from ordinary Russians and its powerless political opponents, the nation's leadership brought the anger on itself by disregarding public criticism of the reform and rushing it into law last year, political analysts said.
"In the absence of political opposition and open public debate, authorities start behaving irresponsibly at all levels - they weren't the ones who made the decision, so it is not their responsibility," said Masha Lipman, an analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center.
Some pensioners, long considered part of
Putin's core constituency, have called for the president and his government to step down. On Tuesday the Russian Communist Party began collecting signatures to back up its demand that the lower house of parliament consider a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov. At least a fifth of the 450 members of the State Duma must sign the petition to put the issue on the chamber's agenda, deputy faction leader Sergei Reshulsky said.
During his five years in office, Putin has silenced critical television channels, fostered the creation of an obedient parliament that does little but rubber-stamp Kremlin initiatives, and recently pushed through legislation that allows him to appoint regional leaders.
The law substituting cash for benefits such as free transportation and free or subsidized medications for groups of people including pensioners, war veterans and the disabled came into force Jan. 1, prompted the largest public outcry of Putin's presidency. Demonstrators have blocked streets in cities across the country, marring Putin's second term in its opening year.
The reform left regional authorities floundering, said Yevgeny Gavrilenkov, chief economist at the Troika Dialog brokerage in Moscow. Many provinces lacked funds to carry out the payments, and no clear mechanisms for implementing the reform were spelled out, he said.
Putin said Monday that regional authorities had not adequately implemented the reforms. But Lipman said the increased centralization of power in the Kremlin's hands has made it difficult for regional officials to carry out their orders, while officials in Moscow cannot handle specific problems in the far-flung provinces.
"Many of the regional peculiarities cannot and should not be seen from the Kremlin; that should be the job and the responsibility of regional authorities," Lipman said.
With protests persisting, authorities have been forced into retreat: Some regional officials have promised to keep benefits in place, at least temporarily; others pledged to raise pensions. Putin followed suit Monday, promising to at least double a planned pension increase and giving ground on public transport.
"It looks like the reform is being postponed, if not canceled," Gavrilenkov said.
The reform has made the government even less popular than before, and polls have shown it has also dented Putin's popularity. In addition to regional leaders, Putin blamed his own Cabinet members and the government of his predecessor Boris Yeltsin for the crisis but acknowledged no personal error.
The protests have helped unite opposition to Putin and his Cabinet, said Alexei Makarkin, deputy head of the Center for Political Technologies think tank.
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