Mikhail Khodorkovsky: We Must Seize This Opportunity

October 24, 2017

Mikhail Khodorkovsky announces his stance on the 2018 Russian presidential elections.

The upcoming Russian presidential election is not an election in the conventional sense, regardless of the participation of Gregory Yavlinsky, Alexey Navalny or Kseniya Sobchak.  It’s still less important to what extent the presidential administration considers these candidates their own personal “project”.

Even the return of the candidate “against all”, as Kesniya Sobchak emphasised in her campaign, does not fundamentally change anything, although it is in itself useful and just.

Real elections are where the result depends on the majority opinion of voters, not where “public approval” is produced on the strength of government resources.

Nevertheless, a great political demonstration is being prepared.  The government is getting weaker, while society is becoming ever more politicised.  We must seize this opportunity.

A boycott? Well, this is only effective when supported by a significant number of voters, and when it doesn’t get in the way of someone’s trip to their country house.

In 2018 a typical boycott is a justification for inaction for the average person.  For those in power, such inaction serves as an opportunity to “hitch a ride” on the indifference of voters in order to strengthen them politically.

If not a boycott, then what?

In my opinion, the democratic movement has three fundamental tasks.

1) To make sure that all willing candidates who are capable of attracting a share of the vote register for election. Society should know about the existence of alternatives.
2) To take part in acts of protest at polling stations as well as monitoring how the voting takes place. To protest means to take a stance against Vladimir Putin (or his protege) while casting your vote for any adequate alternative, and in the absence of such a candidate, to spoil your ballot. What’s important is the act of refusing to vote for a pre-determined winner, rather than simply surrendering your civil rights. The first is a step forward towards an influential civil society. The second is a manifestation of indifference to the destiny of the country.
3) To support the running of candidates who stand for fundamental issues is vital for the future of Russia. Now is the time when people are ready to listen.

This is how I see the issues ahead:

• The decentralisation and federalisation of the country. A recognition of the rights of Russia’s regions to independently determine the pace and form of their own development.  Autonomy in terms of budget at the regional and local level;
• Independence of the judiciary based on the expansion of the powers of the jury;
• The exclusion of the presidential administration and the FSB from the ability to appoint judges and determine their decisions;
• And most importantly – a gradual transition to a parliamentary form of government and a radical reduction of the president’s personal powers in the sphere of domestic policy.

Anyone who advocates a strong parliament, federalisation and a truly independent judiciary is working for the common good and can count on my support in promoting these ideas.

I see this as a blessing for my country and these are my tasks for the near future.