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Belkovsky on Putin’s Primaries and Opposition Strategy

Stanislav Belkovsky is an odd duck.  As a career polittechnologist, he was hired way back in the day to produce a smear campaign against Mikhail Khodorkovsky, but then later flipped to criticize the trial, and then spent some time spreading rumors that Vladimir Putin was the richest man in the world ($41 billion!).  The reasons behind almost anything he says inspire the most lurid and counter-intuitive conspiracy theories, to the point that nobody really understands what he is up to.  Nevertheless, here goes a partial translation of a recent column he wrote on Slon.Ru addressing the recent proposal by Vladimir Putin for mandatory primaries, and criticizing the election strategies of various opposition factions (vote for no one, or vote for anyone besides United Russia).

On a side note, Vladimir Putin has now announced that all parties need to introduce primaries. The liberals were immediately thrown into hysteria: Oh, Putin wants to control all parties! Leave, citizens, get out! And thus the Kremlin will control all the parties – at the very least there will be no chance of some awkward figure from the opposition overcoming the Kremlin’s veto on the electoral list. And all of the fundamental electoral decisions of the opposition agree upon end up supporting the Kremlin, and not only at the highest level. So, to be fair there is no need of primaries if one wishes to increases control. Putin’s motivation is quite different: knowing that any of his sneezes can cause a storm in airwaves, the Prime Minister, somewhat discouraged by recent opinion polls, has decided to draw additional attention to the very word “primary” and the procedure under the All-Russia People’s Front.  And his plan has succeeded, thanks to the Liberals.

What has happened allows us, I hope, to discuss/critically analyse the behavioural strategy of the thinking citizen about the “elections” coming in December.

There are three current strategies these days.

1. “NaX- NaX” [i.e. vote for X] , the movement of Boris Nemtsov and co.

In my opinion, it’s a joke. Nothing more and nothing less. To some it seems funny, to others not at all.

2. Go and vote for any party other than “United Russia” (“Party of crooks and thieves,” (c) A. Navalny).  Arguments against this option have already been formulated many times and are superficial: the opposition is, in essence, no different from “EdRa [United Russia].  A “decent” result from the “election” only legitimizes the Kremlin supremacy.

Nevertheless, the option remains very popular because of short-term objective-causes, of which there are several:

a) the opposition party system are interested in this option, and will finance its campaign;

b) if “United Russia” gets fewer votes than in 2007, supporters of the options will say that this is their great success, personal and collective, and who from the opposition wouldn’t want to declare himself, finally, a winner? Or at least even?

c) Finally, the important thing: this option assumes that prior to December 5, the voter  still has hope for positive change in real time, and hope is the main driver of man as a social being.

To all this, I would like to answer the following.

It would be a good thing to maintain hope in people, but we must also be able to take responsibility for its rapid collapse. And another thing, the solid reputable people who have campaigned for the option to vote against “EdRa” are themselves, in no hurry to stand under the banner of opposition to the system. It is understandable why – they fear damage to their reputation. And why in this case, should I, the voter-fool, still vote for the flawed opposition?

 So I will continue to draw the attention of the audience to option number 3. “All-Russian Home Front” (ONT). On December 4th, stay at home. Ignore the “elections” and the body that will be generated by their results. The composition and structure of the State Duma of Federal Assembly of Russia have no political significance. Slightly more seats for the “EdRa”, or slightly fewer – If it’s not important for the Kremlin, why should it be important to me?  The argument that they will vote with your ballot for “EdRa” does not hold water for me. The authorities will have as many ballots at their disposal as necessary. This means that any votes cast can be redirected in the right direction to the Kremlin. “All-Russian Home Front” is not just a way to escape from political reality. But it is the first step towards the formation of a parallel reality in which we must crystallize a new active creative minority (2% of active Russian people).

But that’s a story for another day.