Staunton, January 12 – The Putin regime and its United Russia party have long counted on using conflicts between opposition groups to their left and those to their right to maintain their position, but in the Altay Republic, the KPRF and Yabloko are both pushing for the same thing: the restoration of the democratic system in which mayors are elected rather than appointed.
To be sure, both groups have taken this position in the belief that they will have a better chance to occupy such offices if the people rather than the power get to decide. But the implicit cooperation between the two represents a serious challenge to the way the Kremlin has been conducting politics in recent years.
Nezavisimaya gazeta journalist Darya Garmonenko describes this unusual conjunction of events, one that she suggests has left the party of power in an anything but comfortable position (ng.ru/politics/2020-01-12/1_7765_opposition.html).
The State Assembly of the Altay Republic is currently considering two proposals for the return of elected mayors. The first, pushed by Yabloko, calls for a referendum; the second, backed by the KPRF, seeks a new law that would do the same thing. Sergey Mikhaylov, head of the local PARNAS party branch, says the chances for a breakthrough are “extremely high.”
That may seem strange given that United Russia has 24 of the 41 deputies in the Assembly. (Eight are independent, five are KPRF, and there is one each from the LDPR, Just Russia, and Motherland.) But the PARNAS leader says the left and right believe some of the United Russia deputies will join them, given the current environment.
According to Mikhaylov, there is no contradiction between the two means the opposition is pushing to secure the return of mayoral elections. (He says he wrote both of them.) United Russia lacks the ability to meet quorum requirements and so has to take into account the positions of the opposition parties in order to do anything.
He acknowledges that it is unlikely that the regime will allow for a referendum – Moscow doesn’t want regional plebiscites, especially now – but thinks that some United Russia party deputies will join with the opposition to pass a law not only because their votes will be on the record on this but also because their party did so poorly in earlier elections.
In addition, Mikhaylov says, younger members of United Russia “don’t understand why they must act against the interests of the voters” who are angry about the trash crisis that the current may of Gorno-Altaysk has allowed to develop. In short, “the party of power has landed in a very uncomfortable position.” It may try to escape by opening the way to mayoral elections.