The Russian non-party opposition is trying to figure out what to do about the Duma elections in December. Boycott? Lampoon? Participate? Vote for anyone except United Russia? In a recent post, anti-corruption crusader and blogger, Alexei Navalny, concludes that the best short term strategy is to vote for anyone except the “Party of Liars and Thieves.” Here’s his reasoning:
1. It’s realistic. A hundred thousand activists from other parties support it.
2. It will unite: Everyone against United Russia.
3. The majority of anti-government oppositionists already support it. I suggest looking at Denis Bilunov’s post where he gives the results of a poll of people who signed the petition “Putin must go.”
4. It will naturally continue after the elections.
5. It is completely legal and therefore really make a change to the political structure.
6. It will cause the government real problems.
7. It’s based in honesty, clearly evident in the idea “Vote against United Russia–the Party of Liars and Thieves” and therefore needs no explanation.
Sounds like a plan.
Here are some posters from the art group RosAgit to help spread the idea:
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By Sean — 5 years ago
This week’s Russia! Magazine column, “Sobyanin Wins! Navalny Wins! The Kremlin Wins?”
I felt something strange while watching Sunday’s Moscow mayoral election: excitement. It had real drama. Sergei Sobyanin’s margin diminished with every counted vote, hinting at the possibility of an unprecedented second round. Like everyone else, I was stunned at Alexei Navalny getting 27 percent of the vote. The election appeared so real it was surreal. Everything in Russia seemed so unpredictable . . . so alive. I too quickly jumped on the Navalny-giving-the-Kremlin-a-bloody-nose bandwagon. And then I thought otherwise.
The unpredictably, not to mention the meaning, of Moscow’s mayoral election depends on what you think the purpose was. If you think this election was about Navalny and his surprise showing, then he made the Kremlin shake in its boots. If you believe the poll was about re-electing Sobyanin, then sure he won, but he has little political capital to show for it. But this election wasn’t about Navalny, though he played an important role. It wasn’t even about re-electing Sobyanin, though that was a key goal. This election was really about the legitimacy of the Russian political system. Given Sunday’s results the plan seems to have worked.
What does legitimacy mean? No leader or ruling elite can rule by coercion alone. Even the most brutal dictator needs the consent of key constituencies to maintain the legitimacy to rule. The Putin system had unquestioned legitimacy for a decade. The politically active part of the population was lulled by prosperity. Everything, however, changed with the 2011-2012 protests. The system was shaken as an important sector, Moscow’s educated, cosmopolitan middle class, broke with Putin. They openly declared the Putin system a sham and its representatives as irrevocably corrupt.
Putin launched a two pronged solution to this problem. The first, and most visible, was a tightening of the political screws. The other was to enact a controlled opening of the political system. This was codified in two reforms in the final days Medvedev’s presidency: the easing of rules on party registration and returning elections to governors and the mayors of Moscow and St. Petersburg. Sunday was the first test of the electoral reforms. And indeed, more political parties participated and, in the case of Moscow and Ekaterinburg, opposition candidates made a strong showing. Most importantly, the status quo remained. United Russia or its affiliates retained political dominance. Everything went off without a hitch. Most of all, in the words of Putin, the vote was “legitimate and transparent” to boot.Post Views: 505
By Sean — 11 years ago
The pawns are moving into place. Kommersant reports that Nashi’s “muscle”, the Voluntary Youth Militia (Dobrovol’naia molodezhnaia druzhina, DMD) has offered its “help” to the Moscow police in maintaining order during the parliamentary elections in December. According to DMD’s leader Oleg Lobkov, Nashi “is worried that extremist organizations such as Red Youth Vanguard, the National Bolsheviks, and their pro-fascist allies will mobilize on the eve of the elections.” “It is our civic duty to resist these organizations and help the police,” adding, “We will work with the police and district militia officers. It is now a difficult time and it will become more difficult, and they have few people.”
With that purpose in mind, Kommersant says, Lobkov met with Viacheslav Kozlov, the deputy head of the Moscow Main Department of Internal Affairs (GUVD) to offer DMD’s support. Kozlov is famous for leading detachments of OMONtsy against a Dissenters’ March protests in Moscow. Nashi’s integration into Moscow security forces, Kommersant explains, will occur thus: Nashi members will first join the DMD, who will then be placed under UVD detachments. Under Russian law, the activists can involve themselves in public conflicts granted that they are deputized as members of the Moscow “people’s militia”. The law allows for “citizens to demand public order” and “use physical force” to ensure it.
We first heard of DMD as Nashi’s internal security from Kommersant’s interview with “Ivan,” an expelled Nashi member who pointed to DMD’s role in maintaining order in Nashi’s Camp Seliger. About DMD, “Ivan” said:
[The]Voluntary youth guard, well [are] a type of cleaners. There have already been cases when they’ve beaten people who have spread information against Nashi. They can probably catch you anywhere. They are football fanatics, athletes, and ordinary thugs. They enforce the ideology and they fulfill their duties with pleasure. [Their duties include] to keep order in the movement and its borders, instigate disorder in meetings and marches, which hasn’t been approved by those in power. For example, in the spring DMD arranged provocations in practically all the “Dissenters’ Marchers,” they provoked the police and threw smoke bombs, and as police approach they planted them in the bags of marchers.
According to the DMD website, the group defines themselves as such, only with much softer language. In the Voluntary Youth Militia, “youth have the chance to participate in the live of the country, can prevent and stop the misdeeds that surround us, can help in the struggle with crime and with manifestations of nationalism and xenophobia.” This includes working with the police to fight crime and maintain public order. DMD has chapters in 19 provinces, and according to documents “Ivan” gave to Kommersant, their funding comes directly from Nashi. For example, the budget for the Moscow DMD for the months of June, July, and August 2007 amount to 768,000 rubles or $29,538. No small operation.
More importantly, DMD’s cooperation with the Moscow police gives a better indication as to what Nashi’s role in the upcoming elections will be. Should we expect fighting in the streets?Post Views: 820
By Sean — 7 years ago
As a day of protests against Sunday’s Duma election begins in Russia’s Far East, the big question is why are people protesting now? After all, it’s not like this is the first Russian election with shenanigans, fraud, etc, etc. It is, however, the first one when Vladimir Putin and his party, United Russia, are dropping in approval ratings. Still, VVP still garners, according to the last tally, a 67 percent approval rating. And if you buy that the elections were close to the will of the people, United Russia still polled 49.3%. But that is if you buy the results, which many, including myself, don’t.
Still, “why now?” is the question of the day. Svobodnaya Pressa asked Leontii Byzov, a senior sociologist from the Institute of Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences this very question. I thought his answer was worth thinking about.
Svobodnaya Pressa: Not too long ago many experts said that our society is passive, young people are apathetic, and it’s hard to get people out into the street. Why in the last few days are we seeing one protest after another on the streets of Moscow and other cities?
Byzov: There are several overlapping factors. First, the rise of a new generation of young people who don’t remember the “trauma of the 1990s”. They are not afraid of change, it is more attractive to them than the “gilded cage” of Putinist stability. Young members of the middle class want social mobility and dream about meteoric careers.
Another factor is the swelling internal opposition within the Russian elite. In the 2000s, Putin served as a certain guarantor of balance between elite groups with completely opposite interests. Such as, for example, the siloviki and liberals in the government. Under President Medvedev this process became unbalanced. One was for Putin, the other for Medvedev. Those who stood with Medvedev felt the taste of power and property. They urged the President to remove Putin from the Premiership and run for a second term. For them, this was a chance that would have called for a struggle against the financial flows Putin’s people control. For control of Gazprom and other state corporations. Therefore, it was hard to presume that these groups would submit to defeat and quietly leave and put aside their plans for the next several years and, perhaps, forever.
I don’t exclude the possibility that now a very large stake has been placed on Putin not being elected. Or, if it happens, to ensure that Putin becomes President in an extremely weak position with minimal support of Russian society and in poor light in the eyes of the West. This will bind his hands.
The parliamentary elections are a pretext for the maximum inflammation of social dissatisfaction and to delegitimize the upcoming Presidential elections in Russia. Hereby at the same time the results of the parliamentary elections interest a few. From this, United Russia more or less gained a mandate, it made no one hotter or colder. These issues are completely irrelevant to our political system.
The falsification of the election results that are now criticized truly have a place but they occurred in 2007 and then even possibly on a greater scale than now. But then it wasn’t an issue for anyone. Today society is incensed and will continue to be deliberately heated up. An outside group interested in the reduction of power and property has global influence, first and foremost Western networks are in this process. In the West, they also very much don’t want Putin to return to the Kremlin and consolidate power around himself. A serious struggle awaits and the main players are not the people in the street, but those who prepare the government elite revolution in the country. And they are looking after their own objectives.
Are the street protests and public outcry symbolic or part of a larger struggle within the Russian elite? Perhaps. There are deep splits within the Russia elite, fissures that were deepened after Putin’s return was announced. But will Don Putin be able return balance this time? I’m not very confident.Post Views: 2,104