Russian Opposition Lacks an Agenda Beyond Getting Rid of Putin, ‘Nezavisimaya gazeta’ Says

Kremlin and River

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, December 27, 2018)

Those individuals and groups collectively known as the Russian opposition are united in their aspiration to get rid of Vladimir Putin, but they have failed to articulate what they would do if and when they were to get power, the editors of Nezavisimaya gazeta say.

As a result, they are unable to mobilize people unhappy with this or that Putin program as they would be if they clearly defined their platform and instead play the largely decorative role that the Kremlin has assigned to them rather than becoming a real opposition, the paper suggests (ng.ru/editorial/2018-12-26/2_7474_red.html).

Russians are angry about many of the things Putin has done or not done, but because opposition leaders and groups are not explicit about what they would do instead, they aren’t able to mobilize that anger and gain support. Instead, they imply that they will do something better when they come to power. Few Russians are willing to take that chance.

The behavior of Kseniya Sobchak and Dmitry Gudkov and their renamed party, the Party of Change, is typical, the editors says. “Already in March, Sobchak stressed that the new party will not have a left or right ideology because the main thing is to ‘give the country a future and to speak out for renewal.'”

That is a position taken by “practically all the well-known figures of the opposition” during the past year, including Aleksey Navalny, Ilya Yashin, Grigory Yavlensky, Maksim Kats, “and even Mikhail Khodorkovsky.” And it is weakening the chances of each and every one while allowing the powers that be to continue to run things.

In the absence of a clear indication of just what they would do if they had power, “it is impossible to precisely define on what social groups they would relay if they were really struggling for power, if they were able to participate in elections, to receive time on television and so on,” the paper says.

One might have expected the parties of the systemic left would have capitalized on popular anger about pension reform and rising taxes, but they are “conservative” and satisfied to be part of the system and to play their role rather than to promote an agenda and challenge those in office for power.

All the figures of the opposition systemic and extra-systemic instead of saying what they would do are spending their time with “political technologies” intended to “discredit the existing powers that be,” to organize voting so United Russia loses, and to convince everyone, right, left and center that everyone needs “a new Russia” and should rally around one or another of them.

“No one wants to be a consistent liberal or a consistent person of the left,” Nezavisimaya gazeta says, apparently fearful that that is not “a niche” which will allow them to come to power. But in fact, it is the only way forward.

“The opposition wants to replace the current powers that be.” Even if a majority agrees, the majority will ask: “what will this new power do? Restore the former pension age? Or will it be a regiem of liberals and market-oriented people? ‘Give us the young!’ and ‘then we’ll take care of things!’ are insufficient and poor answers to what are the most important questions.”