Staunton, August 3 – Were it not for the elections to the Duma in 2021, the Kremlin likely would not have decided to exclude all opposition figures from the Moscow city country or to crack down so hard on those Russians who took to the streets to protest that violation of democratic norms, Aleksey Shaburov says.
By themselves, the current elections to the Moscow city council don’t matter very much to the powers that be; but as part of the lead up to the 2021 elections to the Duma, they have taken on unexpected prominence as a dress rehearsal concerning what the opposition may want and what the powers will insist on (politsovet.ru/63544-sobytiya-v-moskve-repeticiya-vyborov-2021-goda.html).
The Duma that will take office following the elections in 2021 will be in office in 2024 when there will be either a transition of power from Putin or the retention of power by him, the commentator points out. “Therefore, it is critically important to the Kremlin that a completely sterile and loyal Duma will be elected without a single ‘non-systemic’ opposition figure.”
Technically, it won’t be so difficult to do that; but the growth of protest attitudes and the crisis of systemic parties, whose ratings have collapsed along with those of United Russia and Putin, means that the center must change course. And it is quite possible that in the 2021 races, the Kremlin will rely not only parties but on independent candidates in single-mandate districts.
At the same time, the non-systemic opposition will be focusing on such single-member districts because they are the only places from which candidates of such parties have any chance of winning seats in the Duma. If the non-systemic were allowed to run and win in Moscow now, that would make such an outcome more likely two years from now.
As a result, Shaburov says, “the elections in Moscow are critically important for the federal authorities. They may even be considered as both a practice run and a test case for the super-important elections of 2021. And for the authorities it is of first order importance not to lose this preliminary battle.”
There are three reasons for that, the Politsovet commentator says. First, there must be excluded any possibility that someone from the opposition might win in Moscow and thus position himself to win in 2021. Second, the authorities must work on developing tactics to ensure that collecting signatures will be something they can manage.
And third, “this is also a psychological war: the powers that be are showing their opponents that trying to advance somewhere is useless and that it isn’t worthwhile even to think about that possibility. The task here, in short, is “to demoralize opponents at the earliest stage and that may be way the authorities are conducting themselves so harshly now.”
“But as often happens,” Shaburov says, “cruelty by one side gives rise to cruelty by the other in response and instead of demoralizing its opponents, the authorities may only be infuriating them and pushing them toward more decisive and even reckless actions” as “the political struggle for 2021 has begun.”