Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, September 16, 2016

Much ado about almost nothing

Political opposition in Russia is nearly invisible. Don't expect any changes after this weekend's (18 September) elections.

Russia’s Opposition, While Repressed, May Be Its Own Worst Enemy
With parliamentary elections in Russia just days away, a hot competition is unfolding in the race for the seat from the central district of Moscow.

A candidate from the People’s Freedom Party and one from the Open Russia movement are running neck and neck…

The problem in this district, and throughout Russia, from the perspective of the political opposition at least, is that both candidates are staunch opponents not only of one another, but also of President Vladimir V. Putin. And both are badly trailing the leaders.

The chances that Russia’s opposition parties would make any gains in Sunday’s voting were always vanishingly small…

[P]olitical observers and the opposition leaders themselves say, has to be borne by the opposition, which is divided and largely ineffective…

Dmitry G. Gudkov
To be sure, repression is a reason Russia’s 450-seat Parliament has only one member who is openly critical of Mr. Putin [Dmitry G. Gudkov], and why that number is not expected to expand much, if at all, in Sunday’s elections. And yet, with really nothing to fight over, Russia’s opposition has been plagued by infighting, further harming its prospects.
In Russia, parties are defined as “systemic opposition” and “non-systemic opposition,” according to current political parlance, with the former [systemic] being opposition in name, but in fact backing Mr. Putin on most matters.

Examples of systemic opposition are the Communist Party and the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party, both of which have large representations in Parliament, or Duma, and reliably vote for Kremlin-floated measures.

Polls have shown the “systemic opposition” parties’ making gains against the governing United Russia party, capturing some of the populist anger stirring here, as it is elsewhere. But that is not likely to change the country’s politics, policies or leadership.

The non-systemic opposition is splintered into three main political parties and one unregistered faction. All these groups are subjected to prosecutorial assaults, state media campaigns to tar their images and competition from far better financed pro-government opponents. And yet, beaten down as they are, they still cannot find it in themselves to unite…

Denied television exposure, opposition candidates have turned instead to what are called cubes — small tents festooned with the candidates’ images and slogans, erected in crowded places like the entryways to subway stations. To counter this approach, pro-Kremlin candidates have been pitching cubes of their own…

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