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Crimea’s return to Russia’s fold pushes liberal opposition to sidelines

September 17, 2014, 16:58 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
© ITAR-TASS/Mikhail Pochuev

MOSCOW, September 17. /ITAR-TASS/. Over the past year, Russia’s liberal opposition has lost contact with society. It has grossly misjudged the way the public really feels these days and could not but end up on the sidelines, polled experts told TASS.

In September 14 regional elections (held in the capital and many localities across Russia) not a single candidate from Russia’s veteran liberal party, Yabloko, established over two decades ago, managed to win a seat in the Moscow City Duma. Meanwhile, in its heyday Yabloko was quite popular with part of the electorate and even had a faction in the national parliament, the State Duma.

Candidates from the relatively young political party Civic Platform, founded by business tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov, remained unnoticed by and large as well. Not a single mandate went to the Republican Party of Russia - Party of People’s Freedom (RPR-PARNAS), whose co-chairs are former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, former State Duma member Vladimir Ryzhkov and former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov. The People’s Alliance Party and its high-profile anti-corruption crusader Alexey Navalny is overboard, too, although in last year’s mayoral election in Moscow, Navalny was placed second with nearly 30% of the votes.

“The liberal opposition’s marginalization is no reason for rejoicing because any government, however strong, needs a counter-balance. It needs competition. But the out-of-parliament opposition has nothing or nobody to blame but itself for a situation where society has turned its back on it,” the general director of the Center of Political Technologies, Igor Bunin, told ITAR-TASS. “After Crimea returned to Russia’s fold last March, Russia saw the emergence of an unheard social consensus. The president’s rating rocketed to above 80% according to both official and independent pollsters. Also, Putin’s popularity was projected to the ruling party, United Russia, and to all other parliamentary parties that welcomed Crimea’s return. The out-of-parliament opposition does not fit in with that consensus. Consequently, its electoral base has shrunk like shagreen,” the expert said.

“Leaders of the out-of-parliament opposition got stuck somewhere in the 1990s, when liberal values and freedoms were scarce and in great demand," said the director of the Institute of Globalization, Mikhail Delyagin. "These days both are an objective reality. Oppositional parties can obtain official registration, there are contested elections, the opposition has its own mass media and can exercise the right to rallies," he said. "In the meantime, society has its own expectations the authorities have to rise to: social justice, patriotism and democracy as an instrument to exercise civil rights.”

“In the modern context, the liberal opposition has proved alien to an overwhelming majority of the Russian society," Delyagin said. "No matter how hated corrupt officials and big business tycoons may be, during the mass riots in 2011 and 2012 in Moscow and other cities people were able to see for themselves that the opposition’s wholesale crusade against corruption may ruin the state and they turned away," the expert said.

“The out-of-parliament opposition has no agenda of its own except for anti-Putin slogans. As one wit has remarked, today’s opposition would rather vote for the Ebola virus disease than for Putin," he said.

Crimea’s reunification with Russia had made the liberal opposition bite the dust, the observer noted. The public suddenly realized that the liberals, while paying lip service to human rights, preferred to turn a blind eye to civil rights violations in Crimea, where all those who disagreed with the new authorities in Kiev were faced with the risk of physical extermination, the way it had already happened in the east of Ukraine.

“Also, the out-of-parliament opposition teamed up with anti-Russian propagandists in the West and welcomed the anti-Russian sanctions," he went on. "In a situation like this, one may expect that the liberal opposition will begin to receive greater funding from outside the country and get more active. But the chances the protest movement of 2011-2012 may have a replay are equal to naught because it is very hostile to most Russians’ basic interests,” Delyagin said.


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