Russia’s Vladimir Putin, who is running for president in Sunday’s polls, said the mass protests against him made him “happy”, but expressed confidence that the majority of people support him.
“I am very happy about this situation, because that means that the authorities… have to actively react to what is happening in the country, to people’s sentiments, and to meet expectations,” Putin said while meeting editors of foreign newspapers in the Moscow region, his website said Friday.
Tens of thousands of people have staged several rallies in Moscow over the past three months against unfair elections and Putin’s monopoly on power, and many plan to demonstrate next Monday, after the presidential polls.
“I think this is a very good experience for Russia,” Putin said.
“There is noting surprising that criticism focuses on the majority party, which has carried the burden of responsibility for the situation in the country for quite some time,” Putin said.
However he distanced himself from his party, adding that most Russian people support him despite wide protests in the capital.
“You said the urban population is against. They are not against,” Putin told one of the editors, who said polls indicated the urban middle class is rejecting Putin.
“There are less of my supporters (there), that is true. But all in all, my supporters are in the majority, even in large cities.
“We have to be objective and see reality, not what we want to see,” said Putin, advising they should consult “serious polls”.
Putin also said he has not yet decided whether he will stay in power beyond 2018, when the presidential mandate he is set to win in the weekend’s elections will expire.
“I don’t know if I want to stay for over 20 years. I have not decided this for myself yet,” he told the meeting of editors.
The presidential mandate is now six years, due to constitutional changes that expanded the term from the four years that Medvedev has served.