Saturday, September 22, 2018

New Elections in Russian Far East have All-Russian Implications, Schulmann Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 21 – Moscow’s decision to annul elections in the Russian Far East and schedule new ones rather than to have a recount that would reveal mass falsifications brings to the attention of all Russians fundamental changes in the country that until now had been tracked only by social scientists, Ekaterina Schulmann tells Snob’s Arina Kryuchkova.

            In an interview with the headline “Will ‘the Primorsky Wave’ be Transformed into a Tsunami?” the Moscow political analyst argues that “the transformation of social attitudes” which this sequence of events highlights “was fixed long ago but wasn’t as the doctors say made manifest” (

            That is because the means for political action are either quite small or dangerous, Schulmann continues, and consequently, tensions have built up and achieved a level that has sparked “protest voting” that the Kremlin regime and the Russian people cannot fail to take note of. That is what is happening now.

            A recount that identified falsifications would have been a more honest approach, but the setting aside of results and the scheduling of a new election has the effect of “reducing tension and giving a center amount of time for the center to think about what to do with its own candidate who proved unsuccessful.”

            “But the main thing,” Schulmann says, “is that in this situation, the obvious electoral falsifications will not be legitimated after the fact.” And for that reason, “’the Primorsky case’ will have consequences for the entire country,” first for the three places where a second round of voting is being held and then more broadly.

            By taking the decision it has about the Russian Far East vote, the center has sent a clear message that it will not cover up falsifications that are obvious enough for the population to see.  That means, the Moscow analyst continues, that those officials forced to take part in elections will not do anything that carries risks for themselves.

            Of course, the state still controls which parties and individuals can participate in the elections, but what is important to note is that new popular concerns about the honesty of elections “are not connected with any sympathies to specific politicians or parties.” Instead, the voting is a protest “in a pure form.”

            This is part of a more general trend, including the decline in the ratings of all senior officials, that is closely related to the level of approval for Moscow’s foreign policy course, something that has been transformed from “a source of pride” into a factor generating anger because of the costs direct and indirect to society as a whole.

            Schulmann argues that it is incorrect to speak of an end to “’the Putin stagnation’” because of this. That term, she says, is “meaningless in both of its parts.”  What is going on are “longer-term socio-political processes which have never stopped,” but which have until now been occurring like “’underground rivers’” rather than being in full view of everyone.

            Now these trends have broken to the surface and “become obvious to a broad public, from the TV viewers to the TV writers who are even more distant from reality” than the population.”

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