Staunton, July 19 – Blocking all opposition candidates from competing in elections to the Moscow city council, the powers that be in the Russian capital have behaved in a way “not characteristic of the Putin administration,” Vladimir Pastukhov says. That is they have acted in “a crude, obvious and mass violation of the law” rather than distorting it for their ends.
Some suggest that the behavior of the Moscow authorities is irrational, the London-based Russian analyst says. If that is the case, “then it is entirely senseless to discuss it – the analysis of irrational motives by rational means is in and of itself irrational,” he argues (mbk-news.appspot.com/sences/ekstrennoe-tormozhenie/).
And consequently, it is more useful to focus exclusively on rational motives if one is to find a cause. “The authorities, especially in Moscow, usually try to avoid political scandals,” Pastukhov says. And consequently, if they not only allow one to emerge but in fact take steps certain to provoke one, something serious even “sacred” must be behind that move.
In this case, the Russian analyst continues, the rational explanation is that the powers that be were certain that “one or even several significant figures of the extra-systemic opposition” would win in elections and that they could not be blocked by the manipulation of the results that has characterized the Putin era.
Lest that happen and lest there be some powerful tribune inside the city council, the powers that be clearly decided that blocking all the candidates from the opposition was “the lesser political evil,” however likely it was that this would provoke complaints and mass demonstrations.
As a result, Pastukhov continues, the authorities drove themselves into a blind ally as a result of “their strange game of cat and mouse with [opposition leader Aleksey] Navalny, a person who officially does not exist in the public political space.” And worse, they showed that those in the city council don’t represent any real political force.
According to the London-based analyst, “in the subconsciousness of the Russian powers that be, independent of coloration, is still very much alive the memory of Trotsky and the Petrograd Soviet” in 1917, where a powerful speaker moved an entire body in the direction he wanted by the strength of his speeches.
Even more immediate an explanation, he suggests, is that after 15 years of dealing with assemblies it completely controlled, the powers that be have simply lost the ability too work with any open opposition. In such a situation, keeping such people out of the assemblies looks like the better choice or at least the lesser evil.
What has occurred in Moscow is “extraordinary” for the Putin regime, Pastukhov says, “a departure into an extraordinary regime of administration.” But like any such move, it will only put additional pressure on the system and “therefore will not remain without consequences.” Not directly after Saturday’s protest but later.
And when those consequences do surface, everyone will look back on the decision of the Moscow authorities to block opposition figures from running for election.