In Quiet Part of Russia, Putin’s Party Loses Steam
It was a grim-faced crowd that gathered last week at the Palace of Culture in this village, making its way past decrepit housing blocks, broken streetlights and a statue of Lenin.
The governor had driven in from the regional capital, and detachments of pretty girls in blue smocks were handing out flags for United Russia, the party that serves as an extension of the Kremlin’s power.
But the villagers were not in a holiday mood. They wanted to complain — about unresponsive local officials, corruption, alcoholism, decaying housing and the hopelessness that is sending young people away. “You know what we need?” said one woman as she waited in line for sausage. “A monument to dead factories.”
United Russia can no longer count on voters in places like Tula, an industrial region about 120 miles south of Moscow where many residents say that their quality of life has stopped rising. This lagging support is an unsettling prospect for the government — even though United Russia will almost certainly dominate parliamentary elections on Dec. 4. With competition all but eliminated, Russia’s political system depends heavily on its leaders’ popularity to provide legitimacy. As winter settles in, that no longer feels assured. (via NYTimes.com)
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