As the new fraud charge against Alexei Navalny brings the total charges against him to five, The Economist argues that Navalny might not have been persecuted in this way had he acted on his popularity sooner. It’s an interesting angle – it seems plausible that someone with an even wider following would have some degree of immunity from such a blatantly illegal persecution. But one can’t help thinking that Vladimir Putin would have found a way to suppress Navalny nonetheless. The Moscow Times has already suggested that Navalny’s inevitable imprisonment could turn him into a martyr. The Kremlin must surely be aware of such a very real possibility, and it definitely doesn’t bode well for Navalny’s fate. Here’s the Economist:
Over the past two years Mr Navalny’s name-recognition has grown from 6% to 37%, even though the share of people ready to vote for him has fallen. Yet critics say he has failed to convert this into a political structure or campaign. “He held the pause for too long,” says Gleb Pavlovsky, a former Kremlin adviser. This has given the Kremlin breathing space in which to intimidate Mr Navalny’s donors and arrest some protesters, dampening the mood for action.
Jailing Mr Navalny might play to his advantage, further eroding the Kremlin’s legitimacy. Boris Akunin, a writer and opposition figure, says, “if Navalny gets imprisoned, Russia will get onto a track that will take it to the last station: Revolution Square.” His conviction may be predictable, but its consequences are not.
You can read the full piece here.