Staunton, September 22 – The first public protest against falsifications in the Duma vote now hve taken place in the Russian city of Voronezh (ixtc.org/2016/09/v-voronezhe-proshla-edinstvennaya-v-strane-aktsiya-protesta-protiv-nechestnyh-vyborov/), but massive falsifications in the North Caucasus appear to be sparking something more there: the return of real politics.
This conclusion is reached by two analysts, Lyudmila Magomedova of Kavkazskaya politika (kavpolit.com/articles/parnas_edinaja_rossija_pobedila_potomu_chto_u_vas-28323/) and Konstantin Kazenin of the Russian Academy of Economics and State Service (rbc.ru/opinions/politics/21/09/2016/57e24bf49a79475d19b83965).
And their arguments rest on three things: First, the opposition in many parts of the North Caucasus and especially in Daghestan showed the population that there were real alternatives even if the authorities did not allow the opposition to win out. In some places, the theft of the elections by the authorities thus contrasted sharply with popular expectations.
Second, for many in the North Caucasus who depend on federal subsidies, Moscow’s reduction of those subsidies means that there is something very concrete to fight over. There simply isn’t enough money to keep everyone “bought off.” It thus matters who gets what more than it did earlier.
And third, those in power in the North Caucasus know that if they do not make some concessions to the opposition, at least part of it may go into the forests to join the radicals and challenge the powers that be in a more serious way, a risk that the opposition is prepared to warn of and thus exploit.
Magomedova entitled her article, “’United Russia’ Won Because We have a Weak Opposition” and said that in the wake of the vote, leaders of the parties who were denied victory in the vote have declared that “Dagestanis are seeking mechanisms to have the elections in the republic recognized as illegitimate.”
According to the Kavkazskaya politika writer, two groups of people in Daghestan are angry about the falsifications: the population “which has finally become disappointed in the authorities” and the defeated candidates “who encountered directly falsification” in voting and official pressure before and during them.
Some of the latter are speaking about all this in quite radical ways. According to some of the defeated, “the Daghestani people ‘was raped’ by these elections” and needs to find ways to challenge the ways in which they treated in the way that they were by United Russia and Just Russia, the two parties of power that won votes in the republic.
Kazenin seconds this conclusion and adds to it. He says that the election outcomes are even more radicalizing in the North Caucasus because they have occurred at a time when the regional officials have less money from Moscow to buy off various groups of the population and consequently, “local public activity will increase.”
The return of politics in the North Caucasus, he says, is proceeding in a somewhat different way than in other parts of the Russian Federation. But unfortunately, it “almost completely remains outside of the federal information field” and so few beyond the borders of the region recognize what is happening.
The rise of the Muslim-led People Against Corruption party might have given the local officials the chance to reintegrate this community in the official field. But instead of doing that, Makhachkala froze this party out, alienating some who might otherwise be supportive and leading them to ask more not fewer political questions, the Moscow analyst says.
“People simply suddenly saw that elections could be something other than a protocol measure, hopelessly controlled by the local bureaucracy and be converted into a real struggle with unknown results,” Kazenin says. And that showed something else: there is a popular demand for politics in the North Caucasus and it isn’t be met.
Five years ago, he says, activists in Moscow talked more about violations of election law in the North Caucasus than did anyone in the region. Now, the reverse is true; and people at the center should begin paying attention to a region where politics, both legal and otherwise, is likely to emerge even faster than elsewhere.