The shrill cries of anti-Putinism dominate our newspapers and airwaves. Anders Aslund, the Swedish economist calls for Russia to be expelled from the G8 economic grouping; The Guardian joins the Daily Mail, the Telegraph, the Independent and others in painting a bleak picture of Putinism while hailing the middle class protestors who have taken to the streets and increasingly are battling with security forces as they seek to ‘occupy’ parts of the Russian capital.
A hard dose of facts would serve to disabuse our media colleagues of their trendy enthusiasms. Putin won the presidency of Russia. If you strip away the myriad claims of vote rigging, ballot stuffing etc he would still have won 50% of the vote. If you discount the votes of conscripts, convicts and the inhabitants of mental health institutions he would still have the biggest vote of all the presidential candidates and would have won in a second round.
The vocal protestors which mustered up to 100,000 people at their peak are still a tiny proportion of Russia’s 142 million population.
As a leading foreign equity strategist told me the other day, “Exxon, Nestle and Pepsi don’t rely on the newspapers to guide their investment decisions on Russia. They have their own massive offices and networks in Russia that far outnumber the news bureau of the leading western media.”