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Russia Growing Increasingly Impatient with ‘Weak’, ‘Unpopular’ Assad

Russia Growing Increasingly Impatient with ‘Weak’, ‘Unpopular’ Assad

Sunday, 19 April, 2020 - 07:00
Closed shops are seen in the old city of Damascus, Syria amid the coronavirus outbreak. (EPA)

Russia’s clear impatience with Syrian president Bashar Assad has finally emerged after weeks of vague and indirect messages urging Damascus to change its behavior.

Moscow’s real stance was revealed by a survey on Syria that was carried out by what was described as a “state” agency. The findings revealed growing irritation in Syria and a sharp dip in Assad’s popularity to “unprecedented” levels. They also underscored the Syrians’ doubt that he will be able to improve the situation in their country.

The survey, which carried out by a “state agency that was set up in 2005,” showed that 37 percent of participants believe that the situation in Syria is becoming worse every year, 40 percent did not detect a change and only 15 percent believe the situation has improved.

The findings are in sharp contrast with regime propaganda that the situation was improving with the latest “field victories”.

Seventy-one percent of participants said corruption was still the greatest problem in Syria and 61 percent complained of a drop in living standards. Opinions varied over blaming the regime for the situation, with 40 percent saying it has lost its legitimacy.

Most prominent was the assessment of Assad, with 41 percent describing him in negative terms, a third supported him and the rest refusing to answer.

Most damning was the survey’s question on whether the people would be ready to again vote for Assad in 2021. Around 54 percent adamantly rejected his stay in power, 32 percent agreed and the rest abstained from answering. Moreover, only 23 percent backed the idea of Assad running for office again, while rest either rejected the notion or refrained from answering.

On how to politically address the situation, 80 percent called for “economic reforms” and 70 percent wanted a new political class, but the majority rejected Assad’s current policies towards the opposition and regions outside regime control.

An informed Russian diplomatic source told Asharq Al-Awsat that the release of the findings was a “clear and direct” message to the regime. He added that the survey was more of a study by Russian agencies that was presented in the form of a survey, which was likely carried out in Damascus.

Had the questions been posed to people beyond the capital, then Assad may have obtained no more than 10 percent in support.

In all cases, the figures reveal that Moscow’s patience with Assad’s performance has run out, said the source.

Russian state media had frequently published articles on the need for reform in Syria, which were interpreted as an indirect message to Assad to change his behavior “before it is too late”.

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