Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Politics where it's not allowed

Susan Ikenberry, who teaches in D.C., recommended this editorial from her home town paper (about to be owned by an Internet entrepreneur). I agree that it offers good insights into the illiberal democracy of Russia.

A rogue candidate for mayor in Russia
Navalny on the campaign trail
There are few limits beyond which the Russian authorities will not go to harass, suppress and muzzle the candidacy of [Alexei Navalny, the anti- corruption rabble-rouser], the charismatic blogger-turned-opposition leader [who is running for mayor of Moscow]. Mr. Navalny, detested by high-ranking officials whose misdeeds he has exposed, became Vladimir Putin’s Public Enemy No. 1 by leading street protests after the tainted parliamentary elections in 2011.
Even though polls show the Kremlin-backed incumbent mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, with a massive lead, the authorities are sparing no effort to tilt the playing field so that Mr. Navalny is not just beaten in the Sept. 8 election but trounced…

Mr. Navalny is all but banned from state television, from which most Russians get their news. He has been the subject of a smear campaign in the media…

Mr. Navalny has also continued his muckraking — for instance by reporting that a Moscow apartment worth millions is registered to Mr. Sobyanin’s 16-year-old daughter, and another pricey apartment in St. Petersburg is owned by his 25-year-old daughter. Still, Mr. Sobyanin has brushed aside those exposés, and Muscovites, inured to corruption, have barely blinked…

For the time being, a country where politics and democracy have been reduced to a charade is at last witnessing something different: a bona fide dissident candidate, with grass-roots support, tilting against the entrenched powers. Mr. Navalny may be unlikely to win, but the mere fact of his candidacy offers an example to Russians starved for the oxygen of real choice.

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