A glimmer of hope for Russia's opposition?
Putin's party United Russia defended its majority in most Russian regions in Sunday's elections. Only in Moscow, where many votes went to independent, communist and liberal contenders, did pro-Kremlin candidates suffer major setbacks. The press zeros in on opposition figure Alexei Navalny's election strategy.
Navalny's strategy paid off
Le Figaro's Russia correspondent Alain Barluet takes a positive view of the results:
“Although the pro-government faction maintained a majority in the Moscow City Duma, Vladimir Putin will be very worried indeed. Because flying in the face of all predictions it demonstrated the success of Alexey Navalny's 'intelligent voting'. The figurehead of the liberal opposition had effectively given voting instructions for each constituency - aimed in each case at defeating the government candidate. Although it was controversial even among the opposition, the method proved effective and even led to the defeat of several candidates.”
Just a symbolic victory
The strategy of opposition figure Alexei Navalny aimed at weakening the Kremlin by electing candidates from the pro-system opposition could backfire, Der Standard counters:
“Just how Navalny now plans to do politics with these city councillors is unclear. The values they stand for (if any) aren't his. And that is the biggest weakness of Navalny's strategy. While he has demonstrated his influence for now, those elected are for the most part straight and narrow politicians who will easily submit to the Moscow administration. So in this respect this victory for the opposition is rather symbolic. It won't wield any real influence in the future either.”
Democracy fell by the wayside again
With voter turnout at just 22 percent the relevance of the results shouldn't be overrated, journalist Anton Orech stresses in Echo of Moscow:
“Four out of five voters either boycotted the election, didn't care about it or had had enough of the whole thing. Despite the seething emotions, the vast majority renounced their right to vote! So the city will be governed by the candidates of a minority, so to speak. 'So to speak' because I think the city Duma is a semi-decorative body that spends its time interestingly - and now maybe a bit more interestingly. But it doesn't decide the fate of the city, because no single representative body in Russia is fully sovereign, from the State Duma down to the smallest community.”
The authorities are nervous
The Russian government and its authorities are becoming further and further removed from the citizens, Keskisuomalainen observes:
“The annexation of Crimea made Putin popular among his people for a brief spell. Now his popularity has waned and the gap between the authorities defending the existing system and the Russians seeking change is widening. More and more often, the Russians are annoyed by problems with local waste disposal, the consequences of the unpopular pension reform and corruption. Putin's government has proved unable to respond to the citizens' criticism and is cracking down ever harder on them instead. That shows how nervous the Russian authorities are.”