Staunton, March 15 – For the entire period of Putin’s reign, Russian officials and analysts have regularly said that ethnic and religious activists will seek to exploit elections in general and presidential votes in particular to spark ethnic and religious tensions and thus advance their respective agendas.
This week, Mufti Albir Krganov, a member of the Social Chamber’s Commission on Harmonizing Inter-Ethnic and Inter-Religious Relations, repeated that suggestion in a conference call of regional social chambers and called on them to do what they can to block such “interference” (nazaccent.ru/content/26779-v-op-rf-zayavili-o-popytke.html).
He said that “religious and national organizations or groups can be involved in conflict situations between various participants in the electoral process, often becoming the occasion for public political scandals in the media and sometimes taking part in even more complicated forms.”
According to Krganov, he has evidence that some members of these groups are spreading the story via the Internet that those who go to the polls will be recorded on someone’s video camera and their presence will land them in difficulty later, an indication that he and others fear the non-Russians and non-Orthodox are trying to push down participation and will suffer for it.
But except for fears expressed by those close to the Kremlin, there has been little evidence of this. Over the past week, the Bashkort organization in Bashkortostan did announce that it was not supporting any candidate because none were supporting federalism (vk.com/boobashkort?w=wall-70958470_172518).
But most ethnic and religious groups have come out in support of Putin or at least opposed to any boycott. Among them are the Russian Orthodox Church, most muftiates, the World Congress of Tatars, and Mari El Mariy Ushem organization (nazaccent.ru/content/26773-vsemirnyj-kongress-tatar-podderzhit-putina-na.html, and kommersant.ru/doc/3569492).
Some have done so out of convictions, others from pressure, and still others because of calculations that doing otherwise would create problems for themselves; but none appears likely to be able to deliver all its members either for or against the incumbent president or to spark the tensions Moscow fears (mariuver.com/2018/03/14/kudrjavcev-mu/).