Friday, June 23, 2023

If Free Elections are Held Soon after Putin’s Exit, Those in Power Now Likely to Win, Golosov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 21 – Many opposition leaders have made the holding of free elections immediately after the exit of Vladimir Putin from the scene the centerpiece of their programs; but they fail to see that such voting is “not a panacea” and that in Russia those now in power would likely win them, albeit possibly in renamed parties, Grigory Golosov says.

            That is what happened again and again across the former Soviet bloc, the political scientist at St. Petersburg’s European University says; and unless the current elite fled or decided to retreat into business, there is little reason to expect that a post-Russian state or states would be able to avoid such an outcome (

            Transforming the fictional elections of today into real ones “will be a complex process involving both political and technical elements,” Golosov says. Russians typically focus “exclusively on the second,” but that is a mistake because unless the political possibilities and requirements are addressed the outcomes will be anything but what the current opposition wants.

            Even those who accept this tend to focus on what they see as the likelihood that “’communists and fascists’” might win the day, but neither is committed to elections – and those who have learned how to manipulate voting – the current powers that be – view voting as something they can turn to their advantage.

            Not only the experience of Eastern Europe but also that of the last years of Soviet power show this. The elections of peoples deputies in 1989, the political scientist points out, consisted overwhelmingly of members of the CPSU; and thus, “the development of events was defined not by the composition of the deputies elected but by Mikhail Gorbachev’s political choice.”

            Absent a Gorbachev, those from the current United Russia faction, likely under a different name but with the same views, would likely be elected and set the weather; and that is not what the reformers want.  If the democrats are to win, they must become an organized political force at all levels of the political system.

            Moreover, they must recognize that all the goals they want, including elections, the release of political prisoners, and the political freedoms they value can’t be put in place all at once. This will not be some “instantaneous process.” And it is likely to proceed more effectively from the bottom up than the top down, Golosov says.

            Elections at the municipal level are a better place to start that national ones. That is because they can allow the opposition to become an organized political force with widely recognized goals. Proceeding in the opposite way risks not proceeding in a desirable direction, Golosov concludes.


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