Staunton, July 26 – The Putin regime “has come to the conclusion that customary rituals and distracting ceremonies” like the fake elections is has organized for more than a decade “have served their purpose,” Rosbalt commentator Sergey Shelin says, and is going to attempt to rule without them.”
What is now on view in the case of blocking all but regime candidates for the Moscow city council is not some local development, he argues, but rather a change of course for the regime as a whole. “Our vertical as a whole has matured to the point that it is dispensing with the rituals of elections” (rosbalt.ru/blogs/2019/07/1794209.html).
“Administered democracy with its elements of popular involvement in the appointment of officials ended with us 15 years ago, when gubernatorial elections were cancelled,” the commentator continues. Their restoration, the result of popular anger and official concerned, was “almost immediately” reduced to “a fiction” by the so-called “municipal filter.”
Many could see that this was the case but surmised that the Kremlin was maintaining the election system to give it at least the simulacrum of legitimation. However that may be, Shelin says, “the authorities in the most serious way consider that the people owe them for these voluntary efforts.”
“Therefore, any signs of ingratitude and disobedience are treated as acts of betrayal.” In many ways, the bosses have shown that they believe they have the right to ignore laws and lie and so holding elections at all is increasingly something that they view as an unnecessary distract for their own ranks.
“The accustomed election rituals could be observed only as long as all the participants kept to their assigned rules. Those at the bottom almost always obeyed. ‘The systemic opposition’ carefully followed orders. And the vertical invented ever more devices to exclude the un-systemic and semi-systemic opposition figures.”
The un-systemic “year by year” treated these as hoops through which it had to jump, and at the same time, the hoop began narrower and higher to make that impossible, Shelin says. “But for a very long time they all jumped and jumped, quietly fulfilling the obligation of those who will always lose.”
Now, “this harmony has ended. The prestige of the powers that be has fallen, and the masses have begun to use any occasion to speak of their dissatisfaction, including even elections.” Some in the systemic parties have recognized this and that accounts for the victory of some of their numbers in last gubernatorial elections.
And some in the un-systemic opposition in Moscow are seeking to do the same thing in city council elections – and their actions have led the authorities to adopt new strategies that close the hoop such people had been willing to try to jump through in the past. But more than that, it has led the Kremlin to rethink its whole approach to elections.
“The news from the capital as well as from other regions is convincing our bosses at the top that they no longer enjoy any respect and that election rituals as a result are ceasing to work. The country is turning away from them. But if the powers that be have to choose between themselves and the country, the system will choose itself.”
According to Shelin, “the Manichean spirit of our regime” which views itself as “the only source of good” and its opponents inevitably as “forces of evil” has decided it doesn’t need to go through the exercise of having the people demonstrate their love and support especially when such love and support are no longer present.
Russia is thus approaching to a new experiment on it by those in power, one that doesn’t use elections or other rituals but relies simply on the use of force. “Even those at the top dimly recognize that the cost of this step for itself will be high, and that success is not entirely obvious.”
But they have decided to try and that will have enormous consequences until they decide or are compelled to stop.