Mikhail Khodorkovsky on Elections: “The use of large-scale repression is going to grow”

September 11, 2019

These are my first impressions and conclusions from the 2019 September elections. It will take time to produce detailed and insightful analysis, so I am going to talk about what is already clear. I have to use the word elections, even though its clear that what took place in the build-up to 8 September as well as on the day itself can, in most cases, hardly be called an election. And it takes longer to write dancing around with tambourines.

Overall, the result of the elections was that those who should have won didnt. This is particularly true in Moscow and St Petersburg. The real candidates the people whom we wouldnot be embarrassed to call our political representatives were simply not allowed to stand in the elections: Dmitry Gudkov, Lyubov Sobol, Yegor Zhukov, Ilya Yashin, Alexander Solovyev and Andrei Pivovarov. Sorry if I missed anyone.

In the most important elections for authorities, all 16 provisional candidates that is, Kremlin candidates have won in the gubernatorial elections. In 12 out of 13 legislative assemblies the Kremlin managed to keep United Russia in power, including in Moscow but excluding in the Khabarovsk Krai where the people had also proved themselves at the gubernatorial elections.

Nevertheless, I cannot do anything but congratulate those representatives of the democratic opposition who made it into regional and municipal Dumas and councils. Which are the Moscow and Pskov branches of the Yabloko Party and also our guys from the United Democrats team in St Petersburg. I am particularly pleased for St Petersburg, where authorities ran one of the dirtiest campaigns, using unlawful strong-arm tactics. And there were still 144 candidates who were victorious in the municipal elections.

I am not prepared to congratulate the Communist or Liberal parties, nor For a Just Russia. They are not even supposed to be considered independent or even opposition parties. Of course, there are decent people in these parties. And we will wait for them to prove themselves. In this sense, Khabarovsk gives us some reason to hope. Should they prove themselves there, we will support them.

In fact, the main consequence of this years election campaign was the large-scale political repression used in response to growing discontent within society and, as a result, the latters politicisation. The campaign took place on a backdrop of unprecedented pressure being placed on independent candidates. Many were arrested and spent long periods under arrest and some faced criminal prosecution. In Moscow, full-scale political repression was launched against representatives of civil society.

And unfortunately, this is clearly only the beginning. The use of large-scale repression is going to grow if we do not oppose it decisively and strongly.

I tried to draw attention to this during the election campaign. And Im drawing attention to it now. Our future, our political opportunities and even the existence of civil society all depend on how effectively we will be able to stand up against political repression.

It is now necessary to demand that the deputies elected by us speak out publicly and decidedly in support of putting an end to political repression, closing politically-motivated criminal cases and freeing political prisoners.

It is supporting these demands, not membership to a certain party, that determines who really belongs to the opposition. Political repression is a shameful instrument to use to hold on to power in the 21st century. Supporting repression is supporting authorities. This is a clear and simple criterion. If a deputy who was elected in such a climate and such circumstances does not use this newly available platform to speak out against political repression, then s/he is a deputy on the side of the authorities. No matter what party s/he is part of.

In addition to the question about their views on political repression, elected deputies face another very importantquestion. The conditions, under which the elections took place in Moscow and St Petersburg, prevent us from accepting the elected governmental bodies of these cities as legitimate.Preventing candidates from registering before elections, ballot-stuffing, election manipulation, pressuring election observers: All of this discredits the legitimacy of the Moscow City Duma, the governor of St Petersburg and the majority of municipal deputies in St Petersburg.

In the current situation, new Moscow city duma deputies and municipal deputies from some councils in St Petersburg should raise the question about recognising the elections as invalid and scheduling a re-run. This time without repression and election violations. Clearly, it is unlikely that such elections proper elections will be possible in Russia under the current government. But we still have to demand them, as it is obvious that authorities are losing their safety margin.

I call on the deputies of the Moscow Parliament to publish a statement from the Moscow City Duma about political repression.

I call on the deputies of unlawfully elected government organs to voluntarily dissolve themselves.

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