Putin Less Popular After Retirement Backflip

Russian President Vladimir Putin has described the downing of a military plane in Syria as a "tragic chain of circumstances."

A backflip on raising the national retirement age has resulted in a rare yet sharp decline for President Vladimir Putin’s approval ratings.

The President lost up to eight points in some opinion polls after his government announced a plan to raise the retirement age for both men and women.

While Putin’s spokesman said he “is not poring over his ratings,” the drop is significant for a President who typically registers very high approval figures.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced on June 14, the same day as the World Cup opening, that the government intended to raise the retirement age in an effort to combat a shrinking workforce. The shock decision goes against comments made by Putin in 2005 when he said he would never agree to raise the retirement age while leader.

Surveys have since shown that around 90 percent of the population oppose the plan which would raise the retirement age for men from 60 to 65, while women would work 8 years longer until age 63. The plan for men would be enacted by 2028 and for women by 2034. Reaction to the plan has been mixed, with some Russians noting that 43% of men are statistically not likely to reach the age of 65.

Both independent and state-run pollsters depicted a sharp drop for Putin following the retirement age announcement. State polling company VTsIOM reported Putin’s approval rating falling from 77 to 72 per cent, its lowest level since March 2014. Confidence among Russians in Putin also fell to the lowest level since December 2013, declining from 45 to 42 percent. A separate poll by the Public Opinion Foundation showed similar drops.

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday it was important not to dramatise the poll results. He said retirement reform was a sensitive topic and one which was yet to be finalised.

“Of course, public sensitivity (about this issue) has an effect on the volatility of rating indicators. But you know that Putin has a really pragmatic attitude to this and the main thing for him is to continue working and carrying out his duties as head of state. He is not poring over his ratings,” he said.

The spokesman also attempted to highlight that Putin was not involved in the discussions on the government’s plan.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny has called for people to take to the streets of 20 cities not hosting World Cup matches on Sunday, July 1 to protest against the plan.

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