Staunton, April 21 – Vladimir Putin and his team imagine that the challenges they face with regard to Aleksey Navalny and his supporters are ones that political technologies those in power have long relied upon can solve, Abbas Gallyamov says. But they are wrong: the Kremlin now faces not a political technology problem but a real political problem, one of its own making.
According to the former Putin speechwriter and political commentator, Putin “really has usurped power and really deprived society in general of the chance to influence” the direction the country is moving in. And having chosen the wrong strategy, the regime makes ever more tactical mistakes (currenttime.tv/a/navalny-strategia/31215807.html).
Russian society wants to be a partner in this; it has “already matured.” And like a teenager, it is demanding that it be listened to. “This is normal and natural, and it is a process through which all countries have passed,” Gallyamov says. “Russian society obviously already has grown up and it is demanding that the regime listen to our opinions.”
But as recent events show, “Putin is refusing to do this. And when you land in such a political conflict with society, political technologies can’t help. On the whole, the Kremlin is able to maneuver from a political technology point of view but this doesn’t change anything. It is condemned to defeat” because it doesn’t see it must engage in politics.
Gallyamov draws these conclusions on the basis of reflections about the Navalny situation and especially the decision of the jailed opposition figure’s supporters to hold a demonstration on the very day Putin was delivering his message to the Federal Assembly, a decision that the analyst says was “correct” because it seized the agenda from Putin.
Moreover, it demonstrated yet again the main source of Navalny’s strength. Unlike other opposition figures, he is more than ready to challenge Putin by name, something that undermines the Putin regime and makes the struggle not about some amorphous power but about Putin personally.
Putin and his team imagine that they can address this with ideas that spring from their political technologists. They believe that allowing some doctors in to see Navalny will solve the problem. But they are wrong. And they are even more wrong if they assume that Navalny’s death will solve their problems.
If Navalny dies in prison, that will represent “a very strong shock to the Kremlin’s legitimacy” because it “will finally dehumanize the image of Putin.” The Kremlin may gain a little breathing space because replacing Navalny won’t be easy, “but sooner or later someone else will emerge” because of the nature of Russian politics.
And what Putin doesn’t understand is that he will have a harder time dealing with that successor precisely because of the way he has dealt with Navalny. That is because, Gallyamov concludes, “even loyalists who don’t like Navalny all the same are agreed that killing people is not a good thing.”