Opposition scores in local elections in Russia

In the local elections held on Sunday in Russia all the governors of the Kremlin party United Russia were confirmed, but in some places other party representatives suffered significant defeats. Commentators reflect on how this came about: was Alexei Navalny's smart voting strategy successful, or is the Kremlin cleverly mimicking democracy?

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newsru.com (RU) /

Little strokes fell big oaks

In a Facebook post republished by newsru.com, Ilya Yashin, a local politician in Moscow who supports the opposition, highlights the election success of Navalny representatives in the Siberian cities where Navalny had stayed before he was poisoned:

“The coordinators of the Navalny staff in Tomsk and Novosibirsk, Ksenia Fadeeva and Sergei Boiko won seats in the local parliament. Both have been active in politics for a long time and work together with Navalny. But so far this cooperation has only brought them investigative proceedings, house searches, 30-day arrests and other dubious pleasures. However, little strokes fell big oaks: with their electoral victories over United Russia they have secured places in the administrative organs. An important precedent has been set.”

Der Tagesspiegel (DE) /

Putin is cleverer than Lukashenka

The fact that Putin's United Russia party did not win everywhere is not a sign that his power is starting to crumble but is a standard tactic in the Kremlin's system of rule, writes Der Tagesspiegel:

“This system includes maintaining the semblance of a multi-party system in which sometimes the Communists and sometimes the proto-fascist Zhirinovsky party are allowed to simulate something like an opposition with occasional pinpricks. But this also means that local protests - such as those against the dismissal of a governor in distant Siberia, a rubbish dump in the far north of Russia or a church in Yekaterinburg - are not suppressed immediately but allowed to run their course. And it also means that occasionally Putin's candidates lose in elections - as they have now - in a controlled manner. In this way the Russian leadership prevents a powder keg from filling to the brim as it has in neighbouring Belarus.”

Nowaja Gaseta (RU) /

The people are becoming politicised

The Kremlin's measures to maintain power and the people's growing political awareness reinforce each other, Novaya Gazeta notes:

“In the current situation, the character of the local 'electoral culture' is decisive for people's ability to actually participate in politics. In places where electoral commissions are used to count votes in a relatively honest way, the candidates of the state apparatus suffer bitter defeats. There are two conflicting processes: on the one hand the state power is creating more and more obstacles to democratic decision-making, and on the other hand the citizens trust it less and less and are becoming politicised. With this baggage in hand we're now heading for the Duma elections in 2021.”