Russia protesters educated but divided

AFP , Tuesday 27 Dec 2011

Russian protesters cannot reach a consensus over who should challenge Vladimir Putin

The Russians protesting against Vladimir Putin have higher educations and are regular Internet users but have no single vision about an alternative leader, an independent study said Tuesday.

At Saturday's election protest, which drew tens of thousands of people in the largest rally against Putin's 12-year stay in power, 62 percent said they were university graduates, the poll by the independent Levada Centre said.

Sixty-nine percent said they supported liberal or "democratic" parties, and more than two-thirds said they either regularly or occasionally used the Internet, which has remained the opposition movement's most important tool.

But while nearly three-quarters said they came out to express displeasure with the current authorities, they struggled to agree on a single leader, reflecting the fractured nature of the nascent anti-Putin force.

The popular mystery writer Boris Akunin and anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny were trusted by 35 and 36 per cent of the respondents, while TV personality and reporter Leonid Parfyonov led the poll with 41 per cent.

But just 22 per cent said they would vote for Navalny as president, with the veteran Yabloko party leader Grigory Yavlinsky closely trailing him with 21 per cent.

None of the other 14 alternatives picked up more than 15 per cent of the possible voters in the March 4 elections, with the former finance minister Alexei Kudrin receiving backing from only 13 per cent of the respondents.

A separate study by the state-controlled VTsIOM polling centre largely confirmed those trends, also showing an even split between the various age categories.

Sixty-six percent of those at the rally found out about it through the Internet while another 15 per cent were told by their friends. State television ignored the build-up to the rallies but did broadcast reports on Saturday evening.

Levada Centre said it polled 791 people polled at Saturday's election protest while VTsIOM said it interviewed 600 people.

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