Staunton, Sept. 17 – The Kremlin thought that if it isolated the Navalny movement, it would not face any organized opposition in the Duma elections now taking place, but nature abhors a vacuum and the KPRF emerged as the real opposition group in this campaign, changing both it and its relations with the authorities.
This was unexpected on both sides, but Russian analysts say that the willingness of the KPRF leadership to take on such a higher profile and the widespread reaction of the authorities who worked to eliminate from many constituencies popular KPRF candidates means things aren’t likely to go back to where they were (trtrussian.com/magazine/kost-v-vyborah-kak-kprf-neozhidanno-dlya-rossii-stala-realnoj-oppoziciej-6628681).
And that change has been underscored by the decision of the Navalny organization to list so many KPRF candidates as “intelligent voting” choices against the candidates of the ruling United Russia Party, an informal certification that for the extra-systemic opposition, the KPRF is now the most oppositional of any of the systemic parties (docs.google.com/document/d/e/2PACX-1vSe2exjjq0o246AaIiUGPN48SAevbeOke09ZvMrwqcfVDk5Lz-MnHy3temxMSOBJY3Kfo4pjvgNbPIS/pub).
Seeing the reemergence of the KPRF as an opposition force, some experts like Gleb Pavlovsky even suggested as early as the end of July that the Kremlin might seek to ban the KPRF from the voting. That hasn’t happened, but the suggestion that it could shows how far the situation has changed (vnnews.ru/expressnews/politolog-gleb-pavlovskiy-ne-isklyuchi/).
All this suggests, political geographer Dmitry Oreshkin says, that the divide which had existed between the systemic and extra-systemic opposition as far as access to the protest energies in the population is concerned has begun to break down, a trend that by itself changes the political calculus of the Kremlin (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2021/09/16/tsvet-oppozitsii-krasnyi and facebook.com/greg.yudin.7/posts/4259605007492382).
To try to block the growth of support for the KPRF, the Kremlin deployed both anti-communist propaganda and spoiler parties to attract away from the communist list people who were voting on the basis of particular issues. Both have had an effect, but neither was unexpected and neither has been as effective this electoral cycle as both were earlier.
This shift has not left everyone in the KPRF leadership happy. Many are concerned about the identification of the party as an ally of Navalny because 61 percent of the 137 candidates for smart voting that his organization listed were KPRF deputies. And they have begun to try to put some distance between themselves and the opposition leader.
Few think that all these changes with the KPRF point to the collapse of the existing system, but many, including Tatyana Stanovaya believe that it points to a growth of tensions after the elections when the Kremlin will have to try to decide how to deal with a group it thought it controlled but no longer does to the same degree (t.me/stanovaya/1195).