Russian Pundits Say Navalny’s Pull Out From Election Debates Is Non-Fatal Error

Alexei Navalny file photo

(RIA Novosti – Moscow, August 18, 2013) The decision of Moscow mayoral candidate Aleksey Navalnyy to not take part in debates on the Moskva Doveriye TV channel and the Moskva FM radio station can be described as a certain mistake, however he can use the time he saves to maximize contacts with voters on subjects that suit him, political analysts polled by RIA Novosti have said.

According to analyst Dmitriy Abzalov, from the point of view of political strategy, Navalnyy’s decision to withdraw from the debates was a certain mistake, as he could have fought for votes in other electoral groups where he does not currently have support.

“For Navalnyy, regional themes are not of much interest, he needs to capture (voters) with a federal agenda which cannot pursue on regional broadcast sources. On the whole, he is a weak partner when it comes to a debate format,” Abzalov said, noting that Navalnyy fares much better in an ‘off-line’ format.

“He is not ready for a format where his opponents present counter-arguments. So it was easier for him to swap the discussion and for so-called house calls – a street format,” the analyst said. He noted that it is difficult for Navalnyy to make the most of this format due to the holiday season.

The president of the Institute of National Strategy, Mikhail Remizov, does not think that Navalnyy opting out of the debates will have a major impact on the rest of the election race.

“This does not seem a fatal occurrence to me. In this case, this is pure technology – not even political technology so much, as simply managing a candidate’s limited time,” the expert said, adding that it could be used to maximize contacts with voters on subjects that are most advantageous for him.

Abzalov also said that Navalnyy’s mistake in rejecting debates is losing the opportunity to win other candidates’ electorates, where the debates could have helped.

“Navalnyy needs to not just build up his electorate, but also look for support in other fields. Clearly, such a format could have transpired if he took part in debates, but he could have also lost points since his performance is rather weak. Although as political analysts have said on a number of occasions, he needs to build up support in another electoral field, as he’s already reached a ceiling in his own patch,” he said.