An Election for Political Prisoners


After abruptly resigning from his appointed post earlier this month, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin called for early elections for his very own seat – a race that he also plans to run in. As if what is sure to be a falsified election was not enough of a safety net, this move significantly cuts down on the amount of time that any alternative candidates would have to plan their campaigns, effectively guaranteeing Sobyanin’s victory. Even oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov, who ran in last year’s presidential election, has decided not to run because of the “authorities’ tricks.”

Nevertheless, leading opposition figure Alexei Navalny has decided to run for the post. With the backing of the opposition party RPR-Parnas, Navalny filed papers on Friday with the Moscow City Electoral Commission to secure his candidacy.

Meanwhile, a session of the Opposition Coordination Council (KSO) was held earlier today to discuss whether or not to back Navalny as well. As he explains in the column below, Garry Kasparov firmly believes that it should, despite the farcical nature of the mayoral election. As it turned out, the council chose not to, with member Andrei Illarionov arguing that supporting one specific candidate would undercut the KSO’s legitimacy.

An Election for Political Prisoners
By Garry Kasparov
June 14, 2013

One of the issues on the agenda for the upcoming session of the Opposition Coordination Council is to consider supporting Alexei Navalny in his candidacy in the Moscow mayoral election. On the eve of this session, a number of KSO members have proposed that the council simultaneously support two candidates: Alexei Navalny in the mayoral race and Gennady Gudkov in the race for Moscow regional governor. To me, this kind of “packaged” decision is categorically unacceptable.

I have already written and spoken numerous about how participating in the imitation electoral procedures that are called “elections” in Putin’s Russia is utterly pointless. Participating in these “elections” not only does nothing to move us closer to our main goal – to change the regime – but instead, conversely, helps the current government to maintain a semblance of legitimacy.

Regardless, I, as a member of the KSO, am prepared to support Navalny’s candidacy for Moscow mayor. Naturally, I have no illusions about the nature of these upcoming “elections;” I know perfectly well that they are going to be just as much of a farce as all of the other Putin-Churov “elections” have been. However, for me, there is one fundamentally different circumstance that separates this case from others: Alexei Navalny’s work has done a great deal of damage to the image of this corrupt regime, and now the government is trying to make him into yet another political prisoner in revenge. By supporting Navalny in this election, the KSO would essentially be supporting him in his fight against our repressive police state. By the same logic, I could theoretically also support, for instance, Sergei Udaltsov’s candidacy, who is also threatened with criminal persecution.

However, the simultaneous candidacy of Gennady Gudkov for the post of Moscow regional governor would indicate that the KSO is beginning to take the upcoming “elections” seriously, as something that has some kind of inherent value, and not simply as a chance to support a comrade who has fallen into the grinding mill of political repression. To do this would be to ignore the obvious political realities of a country where the number of political prisoners is markedly on the rise, an illegitimate Duma regularly passes unconstitutional legislation that destroys the remnants of civil rights and freedoms, and the forthcoming event that will take place on September 8 is so obviously meaningless that even individuals who are totally loyal to the current government are declining to take part in it.

By allowing itself to be dragged into these pseudo-elections, the KSO would definitively abandon its mission to create an alternative form of legitimacy, which would significantly damage the Russian protest movement.

Translation by Kasparov.com.


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