Soldiers of the National Guard of Russia (aka Russian Guard), a 500,000-strong internal security structure subordinated to Putin personally
Aleksey Shaburov, a Yekaterinburg commentator, says that people are making a mistake treating the March 2018 voting as if it were a real election. It isn’t, and he offers ten things to remember because that is the reality in Russia today. They are:
1. The presidential elections are not about deciding the question of power. That question has already been decided and Vladimir Putin will remain in office at least another six years. But that doesn’t mean the voting won’t have other consequences including the redistribution of posts depending on how well officials deliver the percentages the Kremlin wants.
2. Any strategy that is directed at affecting the outcome of the vote is “senseless and condemned to defeat.” For example, “a boycott will lower the rate of participation but raise the percentage of the victor.” In other words, “the authorities will be able to come out the winner from any ‘protest’ strategy.” No one except the powers that be has “any electoral resources.”
3. The other reasons people give for taking part – raising issues or ensuring that the polls are honest – are to be respected but will have no influence on the distribution of power or ultimately affect the views of many other Russians.
4. Many think that voting for an “opposition” candidate will “send a signal” to the authorities and “force it to change its policies.” Any signal that might be sent has been sent in demonstrations since 2011 and the regime hasn’t changed its policies as a result.
5. The powers that be are prepared to accept “only one kind of signal: the signals about the complete support for itself. All other signals will be viewed as hostile and spark aggression in response.
6. “The only political action which the authorities are afraid of are street protests,” like those currently taking place in Iran.
7. “The only politician with whom the authorities now connect a danger of street protests is Alexei Navalny.” They fear he will organize street protests after the voting.
8. All other politicians who have been given permission to run have had to commit in public to not planning any “street methods of struggle.”
9. “The striving not to allow protests explains other actions of the powers in the pre-election period,” including the unprecedented raids on Navalny’s campaign operation.
10. “The main message” the authorities want all Russians to receive is this: “’It is better to vote than to protest.” And they will use every possible channel “official and unofficial” to deliver it.
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