Staunton, February 20 – Some Moscow commentators have been expecting the extra-systemic opposition to make an issue of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and his outrageous behavior – a few have even suggested that might influence Vladimir Putin’s decision on the retention in office of his protégé.
But a poll conducted jointly by VTsIOM and the Analytic Center for the Moscow Region suggests that the extra-systemic opposition is too marginal and Kadyrov too respected by too many Russians for such a strategy to have any realistic chance of success (chechnyatoday.com/content/view/290094, kavpolit.com/articles/nesistemnye_i_kadyrov-23641/).
According to this poll, Russia’s extra-systemic opposition is a marginal phenomenon. Eighty-eight percent of Russians say that they do not know what the term refers to; and 72 percent say they have never heard of it. Only four percent can give at least one name of a leader of this trend, and 24 percent support trying all of its leaders as “’enemies of the people.’”
Possibly significant is that support for repression of the extra-systemic opposition is especially high among the well-off (34 percent), the young (29 percent) and those who use the Internet intermittently (28 percent), the poll found. Most Russians who know anything about the extra-systemic opposition believe it is in the pay of foreign powers, seeks to destabilize the country, and is “unorganized and illogical.”
In this situation, some in the extra-systemic opposition are looking for a breakout issue; and a few believe that attacking Kadyrov is the way to go given that he is a Chechen, is so prominent, and is so active on social networks, responding to the criticism of others as well as dishing it out.
But the extra-systemic opposition is almost certainly going to fail if it tries to use this tactic because Kadyrov is widely recognized and is viewed far more positively than negatively. Forty-nine percent of Russians in this poll consider that he brings Russia more good than harm, with only seven percent having the opposite view.
Even if this poll is inaccurate in some respects, its appearance now, as Putin is deciding Kadyrov’s future, is an indication that the Kremlin leader has little to lose by keeping him on at least as far as the elections are concerned and may even be able to exploit the Chechen leader as an electoral resource.