Former member of the European parliament, Member of the expert council of Rethinking Russia
The definition of democracy most accepted by political scientists is a quotation of former American president Abraham Lincoln: “Democracy is the government of the people, by the people, for the people”. This definition uses two criteria: One of them is that the government must be elected by the people. It is the main distinction between a democracy and a dictatorship.
But the second criterion is more important: The policy in a genuine democracy must be implemented according to the will of the people. The best indicators between two elections are polls. If the policy of a government meets the people’s desires, the support for the government will be large. If the policy has nothing to do with what was promised to the people, the rate of support will be low. In France for example, president Hollande’s approval rating is 19%, the lowest rate since the adoption of the new constitution in 1958. The situation in Russia is completely different and shows that, contrary to some allegations, Russia is more democratic than many countries, including the ones in the West. The approval of the government in Russia is very high, just like in Switzerland, probably the best model of democracy in existence.
According to the results of recent polls from the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM), more and more Russians think president Putin delivered on what he had promised: Between 2012 and 2016, his approval rating increased from 16% to 37%. He also enjoys support of 39% of people aged between 18 and 24. It is interesting to notice that a large number of citizens who support the opposition parties approve of president Putin’s work as well: 40% of Just Russia supporters, 33% of LDPR voters and 25% of the Communist party supporters. According to the survey conducted on January 24, 2016, in 130 locations across 26 regions, 37% of respondents think Putin has delivered on most of his 2012 promises, 47% think he has partly delivered on them and only 8% think he has not fulfilled most of what he promised.
The prospects for the future are more and more in favor of president Putin: This year 74% of Russians say they are ready to vote for Vladimir Putin in the 2018 presidential election, while only 15% say they won’t and 11% remain undecided. 78% of young Russians say they will vote for Putin, 81% of the population of middle-sized cities will do the same. So most of Russia’s middle class supports the incumbent president. It is difficult to come across equally good results in other countries, especially at a time when in most Western countries people feel disappointed in their leaders.
These results show without any doubt that the majority of the population supports the Russian president because his policy is considered consistent with the desires of the people. In Lincoln’s terms Putin’s policy is democratic. According to him Russia is more democratic than most countries in the world. A lot of countries considered by their elites as democratic are in fact oligarchies. The opinion of the citizens if the best indication of whether the country is a democracy or an oligarchy. “Vox populi vox dei” (People’s voice is God’s voice) is a well-known Roman proverb. The voice of the people tells the truth better than the voices of oligarchs, mainstream media or bureaucrats.