Russians to vote - but what choice do they have?
A new State Duma will be elected in Russia on September 19. The popularity of the pro-Kremlin party United Russia has dipped, but Navalny supporters and other candidates or parties that position themselves against Putin have not even been allowed to run. For commentators the whole spectacle has very little to do with a democratic process.
No real opposition for a long time now
Snob points out that there is already not much plurality in the Duma:
“The last case of someone disagreeing with the regime's view was two protest votes in 2014 over 'returning Crimea to its home port'. On all the issues that really matter to Putin - the 'annulment' of old limits on terms of office, the conflict with the West and Ukraine, the increase in the military budget, the expansion of intelligence powers or the fight against Navalny and other 'extremists', the so-called opposition votes with United Russia. If anyone contradicts the general line, it's [nationalist] Zhirinovsky, who calls for the use of nuclear bombs, and [Communist leader] Zyuganov, who always rants about the fate of pensioners and the decaying legacy of the USSR.”
Internet being cleansed of contradiction
At the end of July, 49 websites run by Navalny supporters were provisionally blocked. Novaya Gazeta puts the move into perspective:
“The Kremlin's goal is apparently to minimise the number of times Navalny's team is mentioned in the public space by September. The state can then still play the card of persecuting people who disseminate 'forbidden extremist information' on social networks, once again raising the stakes as far as modern political terror and paranoia are concerned. It would be naïve to hope that on 20 September, 'when everything has been clarified for the next five years', Navalny's pages will be unblocked. ... Political censorship on the Internet is not an election campaign tactic but a grand strategy for ensuring ensure 'stability'.”