Staunton, March 12 – Vladimir Putin’s decision to imprison Aleksey Navalny has the latter the undisputed leaders of the Russian opposition, someone even those who don’t agree with him but oppose the Kremlin leader are reluctant to criticize and with whom even those within the regime who aspire to succeed Putin may decide to speak to, Abbas Gallyamov says.
Navalny, the former Putin speechwriter and current commentator says, in this regard is coming to fill a role much like Nelson Mandela did when he was imprisoned by the apartheid regime. And anyone seeking to become the leader of the entire country will want to interact with him and win over the quarter to a third of the population which supports him.
A rational figure seeking to succeed Putin will negotiate with him because he will “understand that Aleksey Navalny is the key to the castle” and that he has widespread support among “the most mobilized portion of the population capable of mass political action” (rosbalt.ru/russia/2021/03/12/1891597.html).
Among the regime politicians who are most likely to do so are Mikhail Mishustin, the current prime minister, Tula Governor Aleksey Dyumin, and German Gref of the Accounting Chamber, Gallyamov says. But others will be compelled to consider taking that step as time passes.
Of course, as they know well, “from the point of view of 20 percent of Navalny’s core supporters, none of these is suitable.” But of the remaining 80 percent, perhaps half would be willing to vote for anyone as long as he or she isn’t Putin. These are rational voters who will be making a choice of what they see as “the least of all evils.”
While Navalny is behind bars, other opposition figures may emerge to fill the vacuum the Kremlin has created, the commentator continues, Yuliya Navalnaya if she wants it or possibly Lyubov Sobol to name just one other. It is possible that such a person might be “more effective” and thus “a bigger headache for the regime.”
If that should prove to be the case, “a year from now, the Kremlin may be pulling out its hairs in despair over why it ever created such a vacuum in the first place,” Gallyamov suggests.
Much will depend, of course, on how the powers that be act in the future, he continues. It may reflect on the fact that it elevated Navalny to his status as first leader of the opposition by bringing criminal charges against him, thereby ensuring that “any protest voter now knows that the powers that be don’t like [him].”