Putin promises billions in public spending ahead of polls

WION Web Team
New DelhiUpdated: Jun 19, 2021, 08:10 PM IST
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Putin to arrive in India on December 6 for a short visit Photograph:(Reuters)

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Putin made the announcement at his United Russia party congress. The parliamentary polls are likely to see the deeply unpopular party struggle

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday proposed spendings of billions of rubles ahead of parliamentary polls due in September. Putin made the announcement at his United Russia party congress. The parliamentary polls are likely to see the deeply unpopular party struggle.

The party congress took place in a Moscow convention centre. The Russian capital is seeing high number of new Covid cases.

The spending for public support Putin proposed included 50 billion rubles ($687 million) on public transport, 30 billion rubles for repairing roads and 20 billion rubles to clean up rivers, among other spending projects on infrastructure and healthcare.

"The program of the party of the leader has to be the program of the people," the 68-year-old Kremlin chief said in a speech broadcast on state television.

He also said the state would be allocating payments and new forms of support for families starting next month. 

"Our task is to significantly increase the prosperity of Russian families and the incomes of our citizens," Putin said.

The gathering, which determines the ruling party's candidates and electoral platform for September's lower house of parliament vote, comes after the party has seen support tumble in recent years amid economic stagnation, entrenched corruption and widespread voter fatigue.

On Friday, state-run pollster VTsIOM published a survey showing that 30 percent of voters support United Russia -- a 10-point drop from the last lower house State Duma elections in 2016.

Navalny neutralised

But the party, which controls a majority of the State Duma, is projecting calm.

"It is a good base of support that can be further increased during the election campaign," party chairman and former president and prime minister Dmitry Medvedev said at the start of the month.

Putin, who came to power in 2000, himself boasts much higher support than his party with an approval rating of 61.5 percent, according to VTsIOM.

The pollster also predicts that three opposition parties that are seen as doing the Kremlin's bidding -- the nationalist LDPR, the Communists and A Just Russia -- will garner around 30 percent of the vote.

Further buoying the Kremlin's prospects in September is the recent dismantling of the movement of Russia's main opposition politician Alexei Navalny.

Barring his organisations from working in the country, a Moscow court earlier this month branded them as "extremist", while Putin signed legislation outlawing staff, members and sponsors of "extremist" groups from running in parliamentary elections.

Critics say the moves were aimed at ensuring that Navalny, who was jailed earlier this year for two-and-a-half years on old fraud charges he says are politically motivated, does not spoil September's vote for the Kremlin.

Despite the clampdown, Navalny's allies are promoting his Smart Voting strategy that backs candidates best placed to defeat Kremlin-linked politicians -- a tactic that has seen United Russia lose a number of seats in recent local elections.

(With inputs from agencies)