“Fighting for change is now the most patriotic action we can take ”

October 8, 2015

Mikhail Khodorkovsky

What does it mean to be a patriot? Do you have what it takes?

Almost everyone considers that there was no point at all in the opposition taking part in the 2015 elections; and their arguments make sense. I do not intend to sum up what happened in the recent campaign because it is not yet over. Elections for the State Duma take place in 2016, and our plan is careful monitoring of the distribution of forces in the run-up to the election. We also want to suggest to those that regard participating in the election as the equivalent of banging one’s head against a sealed door, that they should perhaps think about the windows, in some of which small ventilation panes have begun to open up a crack.

Firstly, the current Russian political state has been in a state of flux for the past few years.  The government’s supports have lost their rigidity and started wobbling: the state no longer has the necessary resources to bribe both the electors and the loyal elite alike.  A combination of circumstances – the economic bankruptcy of the government, the inefficiency of the state corporations, sanctions and isolation, expenditure on propaganda, the record flight of capital and brains against the backdrop of a yawning demographic abyss, and, lastly, the fall in the price of oil – has exhausted budget resources, so there is not enough to keep the officials happy and to see that the indexation of salaries and pensions keeps up with inflation. Either one or the other group will be dissatisfied. The much-publicised recent conflicts between the centre and regional elites in the Saratov region, in Komi and on Sakhalin are a very obvious hint to the forces of opposition that they have received a pre-election opportunity.

Secondly, United Russia has managed to lose its inflated popularity ratings even though political competition has been stifled, so for this election the government has decided not to put all its eggs into the basket with so many holes. A change in electoral legislation had to be effected to return single-mandate constituencies. The government intends to retain its control of parliament by pushing dodgy con artists through the system as single-mandate candidates. They have changed the legislation to suit themselves, but at the same time they have presented the opposition with one last opportunity.

Unfortunately these single opportunities are not enough. They have to be handled worthily in order to achieve independent political representation. The necessity of fighting for this representation has gone way beyond classical political struggle and become a question of Russia’s survival.

Fighting for a change in the political system is now the most patriotic action we can take

The current crisis has shown that a monolithic government represents a huge threat for Russia’s very existence. This government has only one tool left: repression. But endless repression is also not possible because the country will simply collapse. We’ve already been through this in 1917 and 1991. Fighting for a change in the political system is now the most patriotic action we can take.

We have no illusions left after 2015, so we are entering on the new electoral cycle with a completely clear mind. Open Russia organised observers at the election to the Kostroma regional legislative assembly, and that campaign threw up two very valuable points:

  1. 1. The government explained in words of one syllable that it will make use of any methods it can to obstruct the observers. This time it was an invented corpse [the excuse for the raid on the Open Russia Kostroma office] and a real hostage [Andrei Pivovarov] in pre-trial detention. At the Duma elections the stakes will be even higher so real courage will be demanded of us. This has to be clearly understood.
  2. 2. The opposition’s organisational abilities and vision are far from perfect. This has to be calmly acknowledged and time set aside to acquire new skills.

The Open Elections project is continuing its work. We are once more training independent observers not only to record any violations, but also to pre-empt them. But in 2016 we shall go further – with your help.

What does this mean? As always, we need people for the campaign to succeed.

We are convinced that there are people in the Russian regions able to throw down the gauntlet to the vertical of power and to fight for a better business climate, de-monopolisation, guaranteed property rights and a properly functioning judiciary. We are planning to find these people and offer them support. Yes, Open Elections will support independent candidates if they show they have the necessary motivation and skills. We should like to think we could find twenty such people, but if it’s only ten, that is still more than nothing, and could be a chance of getting three or four deputies into the Duma.

For our candidates to be able to maximise their chances, the campaign has to be professionally organised. Today we are starting our search for campaign managers in the regions. We are looking for the best specialists. The requirements will be the following:

  • – A profound interest in elections and real achievements in this field. You should let us know how you think an election campaign should be organised, the potential weak spots, and how to turn these into strong points. Any experience of success in defending your own or anyone else’s rights would be a very considerable plus
  • – Excellent organisational ability, management skills for dealing with procedures, people, money and diverse other interests
  • – Iron self-control, nerves of steel, bionic hands, Turing brains and the skills to outwit everyone AND
  • – Psychological and moral strength, common sense and courage.

It will not be easy for anyone: candidates, campaign managers or observers. It will even be difficult to find the right people, but we shall seek them out because someone has to do this difficult job.  Today we are openly taking this upon ourselves.

Ring us, or write to us:

In Russia: 8-800-775-49-74

International: +7-495-204-17-14



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