Russia: anti-war candidate challenges Putin

Former member of the State Duma Boris Nadezhdin wants to stand as a candidate in the Russian presidential election this year. He says he has gathered more than 200,000 signatures in support of his candidacy, clearly surpassing the 105,000 required by the Central Election Commission. Nadezhdin has voiced sharp criticism of Putin and the war against Ukraine. Europe's press speculates on whether he will ultimately be allowed to run and what consequences this could have.

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Tvnet (LV) /

All about undermining the ruler's legitimacy

Writing on Tvnet, exiled Russian opposition politician Maxim Katz admires the courage of those who sign in support of Nadezhdin:

“This is a very serious political act. For every person who signs, there are at least 100 who feel the same way but didn't turn up. ... It's not about Nadezhdin becoming president of Russia. It's about undermining Putin's legitimacy. ... Another person, whoever he is, would never be able to rule Russia the way Putin does now, because he won't have control over all the instruments. So if he says: 'Let's attack', he'll receive the answer: 'Go to hell, we won't launch an attack'. ... And in Russia, no one will stay in power for more than a year or two without broad public support.”

The New Times (RU) /

An insider going his own way

The New Times looks at whether Nadezhdin's participation in the election would benefit or be dangerous for the Kremlin:

“The Kremlin can use Nadezhdin to sound out how many people dare to openly demonstrate their anti-Putin and anti-war stance. It could use him to show that the minority is still a minority by allowing him to secure one to two percent of the vote. But if things continue the way they are now, won't he get more? ... It turns out that you can actually achieve something if you don't shy away, if you know the shady and deceitful underside of the state power as well as Nadezhdin, who once walked through its corridors, and if you respect its rules and the constitution.”

Abbas Gallyamov (RU) /

Rehabilitating Russian society

Writing on Facebook, political commentator Abbas Galliamov stresses the social value of such acts of resistance:

“The protesting wives of those who were mobilised, the Bashkirs who rebelled in remote Baymak, the people queuing up to sign for Nadezhdin, and those setting up regional branches of Yekaterina Duntsova's [new opposition] party - all of them are destroying the myth of popular support for the war and Putin. It's hard to imagine anything more significant than these simple steps. The people who take them are literally rebuilding society, restoring its nervous system.”

Echo (RU) /

Queuing up against the war

Nadezhdin's candidacy won't be authorised by the Kremlin because the opposition politician is too popular, Republic editor-in-chief Dmitry Kolesev says in a Telegram post republished by Echo:

“It has become clear that there are still opposition-minded people in the country. And since Boris Nadezhdin positions himself as an anti-war candidate, it can be said that this was a form of legal action against the war. People felt the joy of collective action, it gave them hope, they at least had the feeling that they had done something. ... I think it's unlikely that Nadezhdin's name will end up on the ballot paper. If simply collecting signatures for a candidate already energises the opposition and inspires people, what would happen in an election campaign?”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

Dangerous popularity

Gazeta Wyborcza doesn't believe Nadezhdin has a fair chance:

“Boris Nadezhdin, a 60-year-old liberal politician with a wealth of experience and a well-known name, has not yet been eliminated from the election process. ... Things are going well for him, as 80,000 compatriots [now 100,000] have already placed their trust in him and more are queuing up in Moscow to endorse his candidacy. ... Nadezhdin speaks out strongly against Putin's war and proclaims that 'it is necessary to elect a new government to end this story with Ukraine'. However, he himself is in the hands of Putin, who can prevent him from standing for election at any time under one formal pretext or another.”

Kaleva (FI) /

Discontent will simmer without boiling over

The Russian population will not rise up against Putin in the foreseeable future, Kaleva is convinced:

“War-weariness is evident in Russian social media, where the promised victory and takeover of power in Kyiv have faded into the background and been replaced by expressions of grief over the growing number of Russian soldiers who have been killed. But will the discontent finally erupt in Moscow, St Petersburg, or even in the regions of the national minorities, which have already seen the first riots? That remains unlikely. The apparatus of brute force seems to have a firm grip on the country, and Putin still has a large following, thanks in part to the propaganda apparatus.”