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Putin’s reform proposals quench public discontent, latest poll shows

By ethan / September 5, 2018

More than half of Russians say they don’t expect any serious protests in the near future. Researchers link this to Vladimir Putin’s recent speech outling plans to soften the negative effects of the forthcoming pension reform.

According to the poll conducted by the state-run public opinion research agency VTSIOM, 55 percent of Russians consider mass protest rallies in places where they live very unlikely. Still, 39 percent of respondents said that the protests were probable.

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Russia's Communist Party rally in Moscow on September 2, 2018. © Kirill Kudryavtsev

A month ago the share of those who expected protests amounted to 51 percent while 44 percent said that they did not expect fellow citizens to take their discontent to the streets. Also, the latest research showed that 66 percent of Russians ruled out personal participation in protests, up from 59 percent a month ago. The share of those who said they were ready to take part in protests fell from 38 percent to 31 percent over the same period.

Most Russians – 71 percent – currently think that street protests cannot really affect the authorities’ decisions to increase the retirement age. Only 21 percent said they expected the government to change its plans because of protests and eight percent said they did not know if the protests can affect state policies or not, at least in this particular case.

VTSIOM experts believe that the changes in protest expectations came about because of Putin’s televised address to the Russian people on August 29. In it, the president explained the necessity of the reform and also made several proposals that could soften its negative effect on people. These included the increase of the retirement age for women by five years instead of eight and introducing the legal definition of “pre-retirement age” (five years before retirement is officially allowed) that would grant additional guarantees for workers, including criminal liability for employers who fire workers of pre-retirement age without valid reasons.

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Putin also proposed doubling unemployment benefits for people of pre-retirement age. The president also said that before the reform is fully completed, pensioners must keep all tax benefits and state payments.

According to VTSIOM’s General Director Valery Fedorov Putin’s speech “essentially ended the discussion on whether the reform can be cancelled or seriously corrected.” He also said that a significant number of Russians who had previously expressed readiness to participate in protests changed their mind because they understood that the issue is closed.

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