Staunton, Sept. 23 – If the Kremlin decides to hold elections in 2024 and especially if Vladimir Putin runs again, at least some in the Russian opposition are already thinking about finding “a representative of the free part of Russian society” to run against him, much as Belarusians did before the last Belarusian election.
Because so many leading Russian opponents of Putin are dead, in prison, in emigration or banned from running because of Putin-era laws, the range of choices is not large. But there is a belief that someone who is clearly an opponent of the current president could mobilize the Russian people.
One making that argument is Ilya Yashin, a Moscow municipal deputy. He argues Belarus has shown “society consolidates around such a candidate” (znak.com/2021-09-23/oppoziciya_ichet_edinogo_kandidata_na_vybory_prezidenta_2024_pervyy_v_spiske_royzman). And he proposes former Duma deputy and former Yaketerinburg mayor Yevgeny Royzman.
Royzman for his part says he isn’t prepared to seek the position. But his rejection is hardly Shermanesque. And the discussion is important not because of the possibility that he could be such a unifying candidate but rather than the opposition is talking about the possibility that he or someone else might play that role now, well ahead of the voting.
With the Duma voting just completed, it is clear that at least some in the opposition are thinking in new ways, and the appearance of what might be called the Belarusian option is a sign that previous ways of doing business may be cast about and a new approach to presidential politics in Russia emerge.