Should Putin be worried about election boycott?

Supporters of Alexei Navalny staged protests in several Russian cities on the weekend. They aim to drum up support for Navalny's call for a boycott of the presidential election. Navalny has been banned from running in the election. Commentators take different views as to what impact a boycott would have on the election and Putin's performance.

Open/close all quotes
Nezavisimaya Gazeta (RU) /

Navalny's call for boycott ineffectual

The country-wide protests staged by Navalny supporters on Sunday mobilised just a few thousand demonstrators. Navalny is having a hard time gaining political support with events and protest marches, Nezavisimaya Gazeta comments:

“The powers that be have once again managed to sideline actions by the opposition; they no longer mobilise the masses. To do that and to receive media coverage Navalny would have to put forward a surprising, highly contentious and at the same time popular agenda. Boycotting the March elections is anything but that. 'Voter strike' is a slogan that hasn't even united Kremlin critics. Even though Navalny managed to get a few hundred or thousand opposition-minded people to come out and demonstrate on January 28, he hardly chalked up any political points at all with the event.”

Financial Times (GB) /

Voter strike could deal Putin major blow

If Navalny is successful with his call for a boycott Vladimir Putin will win the presidential elections but by a smaller margin, the Financial Times believes:

“Mr Navalny could yet do more damage to the Kremlin as a non-candidate than as a candidate. Were he allowed to contest the election, he almost certainly would not win. Mr Putin enjoys an overwhelming advantage in name recognition and 'administrative resources', such as fawning state media and obedient civil servants and election officials. Yet if Mr Navalny's boycott campaign can lower turnout by even a few percentage points, that could make the difference between an acceptable level and one that falls short.”

snob.ru (RU) /

Putin's opponents destroying themselves

As is always the case before elections in Russia, Putin's opponents are ruining their own chances, Stanislav Kuchcher sighs on website Snob:

“Unfortunately I am obliged to conclude that if the president's administration worked out a plan to discredit what is left of the Russian opposition, it's working perfectly. Our opposition suffers from a combination of Bolshevism, narcissism and egocentrism. ... Exactly this ailment is what destroyed the democrats in 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011/12. And today it's even destroying those who belong to the new generation of opposition politicians and who for that reason should be more worthy than their predecessors.”

newsru.com (RU) /

Zero tolerance, zero vision

Former opposition MP Dmitry Gudkov voices his frustration over the debate about boycotting the elections in a Facebook post published by newsru.com:

“You get personal, start blaming each other for things - that's why we're so fond of life in the opposition! ... Whether we go to the elections or not, vote or not, it won't make any difference. ... I'm more for going to the polls and voting. ... But I'm not leading a campaign against those who want a voters' strike or to boycott the elections: March will pass - and we'll still be here. ... What kind of democracy are we talking about if we declare everyone our enemy who sees a problem from a different perspective? Think of Voltaire, who was ready to die for the freedom of expression of dissenters. Here in Russia they'd show that Voltaire who's boss.”