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Russia's off-parliament opposition unlikely to drive its slogans home to population

July 24, 2015, 17:55 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© ITAR-TASS/Valeriy Sharifulin

MOSCOW, July 24. /TASS/. Parties making up what is known in Russia as ‘non-system’ (off-parliament) opposition have made known their plans to hold a new major street action in September but experts have doubts about the real scale of the new showing, since the political slogans of this opposition do not evoke any interest on the part of the masses or people.

Nezavissimaya Gazeta daily believes the action the oppositionists are planning for the second half of September will center on protests against the laws broadening the powers of the forces of law and order, "Russia’s war against Ukraine", and the demands to free those who the opposition terms ‘political prisoners’.

The possible organizers are the Committee for Protest Actions, members of the RPR-PARNAS party, the Democratic Choice movement, Yabloko liberal party, Solidarity public association, and the December 5 party.

"A final decision on the march will be taken somewhere at the beginning of August," Yabloko leader Sergei Mitrokhin said.

The previous major protest action was held on September 21, 2014, after which only a mournful march for the slain politician Boris Nemtsov was held on March 1.

Konstantin Kosachov, the head of a political expert group believes the problems of payments for capital repairs, the healthcare reform, and the ban on imports of various products might be actually far more important for society that the "cannibalistic law on the police".

"I think this initiative will end in a flop, partly due to personal qualities of the leaders of this opposition, as each one of them senses a general within himself, and partly due to the agenda they’re promulgating," Aktualnye Kommentarii portal quoted political researcher Pavel Salin.

He believes that a very sizable part of society is unwilling to accept a purely political agenda promoted by the oppositionists even in the protest-minded cities like Moscow, Novosibirsk or St Petersburg.

"Russian oppositionists bring up the things they themselves are interested in," Salin said. "The problem is this might have worked some twenty years ago when the Russians were politicized to the utmost, but this doesn’t work for the past fifteen or so years and will unlikely start working again anytime soon."

Stepan Lvov, the chief of the department for social and political research at the All-Russia Public Opinion Studies Center (VCIOM) says the people who take an interest in the oppositionist agendas have split into two camps - the pro-Western liberals and the more pro-Russian liberals. "The opposition can draw on support of only one of these camps today," he said, adding that it was not working actively with the pro-Russian liberals at the moment.

The off-parliament opposition has fifty-fifty chances to rally considerable support from protest-minded Russians, said Lydia Timofeyeva, a deputy chief of the chair of political sciences at the Russian Academy of Government Service reporting to the Presidential Administration (RANEPA).

"These chances are breakeven only if the manifestation is organized closer to the yearend but definitely not in September," she said. "September is not the time when people are already prepared to join in street protests en masse."

"And why isn’t the opposition supported on a broad scale?" Timofeyeva said. "Because they have political slogans only and the Russians largely support Putin’s foreign policy as they believe the country has gained back its dignity thanks to him and has started gathering its historical bits."

"People agree with the postulation that we’re rising from our knees, and where are the social and economic problems worrying the people?" she said adding it was precisely these issues that formed a hypothetical basis for protest actions.

In the meantime, the protest sentiments in this country remain at a rather low level, public opinion analysts say. Considerable sections of Russian society do not have any plans to throw their shoulder into mass protests under political slogans, should such protests erupt, a poll taken by the Levada Center research group at the end of June showed.

A total of 87% of those polled stated their reluctance to protest and only 8% respondents were ready to make public claims against the authorities at demonstrations. Only 5% were either undecided or did not have an answer.

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