Staunton, August 10 – The leaders of the three “system” opposition parties – the KPRF, the LDPR, and Just Russia – have failed to recognize that they have been driven into “a loyalty trap” in which any display of resistance to the Kremlin will result only in a reduction of the influence and numbers in the Duma, Fedor Krasheninnikov says.
Indeed, he says, they find themselves in the position that Pastor Niemoeller described in Nazi Germany and that Russian GULAG prisoners said was the rule of “’you die today but I will die tomorrow’” – the need to show complete obedience and not think what this trend points to, a situation in which only one party matters and indeed only its leader, Vladimir Putin.
In today’s “Vedomosti,” the head of the Yekaterinburg Institute for Development and the Modernization of Social Ties says that a defining characteristic of the current election campaign is “the demonstrative ignoring by the authorities of the interests of their voluntary political fellow travelers” (vedomosti.ru/opinion/articles/2016/08/09/652388-lovushka-loyalnosti).
Indeed, the marginalization of those who do not show sufficient unquestioned loyalty could be seen in the primaries of the ruling United Russia Party itself where many who were even the slightest bit independent of the party line were unceremoniously elbowed aside and not allowed to run in the general elections.
But “this was only the beginning,” Krasheninnikov says. Many smaller parties were simply crushed through the use of the power of the state even though they proclaimed their loyalty to United Russia and Putin. Among the most notorious of these cases was the suppression of the pro-Putin Russian Party of Pensioners for Justice. It wasn’t loyal enough.
The situation of the three “systemic” opposition parties has been only a little better. They can clearly see that they will have fewer seats in the new Duma than in the old one and that their chances for influence will be reduced by even more than the cuts in the number of seats. The KPRF acknowledged as much in a declaration last week.
But at the same time, neither the KPRF nor the others are prepared to protest against what is going on. Instead, they appear to believe that their salvation this time around can be found only in becoming even more loyal to United Russia and to Putin personally, the Yekaterinburg political analyst says.
Four years ago, the three opposition parties gave a foretaste of how they would behave now: Initially, they supported the popular demonstrations against the dishonesty of the elections; but once they saw the official reaction, they fell in line with the powers that be. And since then, they have helped adopt “a plethora of repressive laws which have created the current situation.”
In this election year, Krasheninnikov writes, “the systemic parties have been deprived not only of the opportunities to defend their interest but also of their chances for any support from the side of civil society.” There are three reasons for this: First, “any call for protests about the election results will inevitably generate the harshest possible reaction” by the state.
Second, they will not do so because “civil society itself is demoralized … and hardly capable of new protests.” And third, “it is difficult even to image someone who after all that has happened in recent years is going to be ready to risk his freedom and well-being” for opposition parties that have long ceased to be that – and who may soon be discarded as well.