Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Coalitions of Opposition Groups Did Better in Local Elections than in National Ones, Perm Researchers Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 23 – Because of government repression, opposition groups at the local level increasingly have coordinated their activity; and because these groups have had more success in working with one another than those at the all-Russian level, they have done better than the latter, Andrey Semyonov and Elizaveta Popkova say.

            The two researchers from Perm State National Research University say repression at the center has forced politicians to shift from national to local elections where the stakes are lower because of the relative weakness of local councils and where the regime has less ability to impose its will (

            But this success, typically in boosting support for the opposition and sometimes in its actually winning seats in local councils is critical, Semyonov and Popkova say, with the experience of other countries suggesting that this can be “a precursor to major electoral breakthroughs at the national level.”

            Attempts at the all-Russia level to unite the extra-parliamentary opposition have all failed, but local coalitions in 2020-2021had some success because they focused on local issues. Their successes were generally “modest.” Only occasionally did they win through, but in many cases, they finished far higher than might have been expected.

            The coalitions in the four cities the two investigators focused on “relied on volunteer networks rather than existing political parties … actively used rhetoric of opposing United Russian Party, and generally campaigned with methods visibly different from the traditional methods used by the party of power and the systemic opposition.”

            Does the failure of three of the four coalitions to wins mean that such cooperation is “useless,” Semyonov and Popkova ask rhetorically. “Such a conclusion would be premature,” they say, because the relative success of the candidates promoted by such groups is unlikely to be ignored elsewhere in Russia.

            And such “joint campaigns” promise to be “a starting point” for challenging the regime, not only at the local level but eventually at the all-Russian one as well.


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