How Open Russia is Supporting the Next Generation of Independent Leaders

July 12, 2017

On December 13 2016 the Open Russia Educational Centre opened up operations and began taking its first classes.  In the first 6 months over 400 people attended, among whom were political candidates as well as members of electoral staff.  The educational program was set up to support candidates who were planning to participate in 2017 Moscow municipal elections.

According to Timur Valeev, executive director of the Open Russia Movement, “the mayor of Moscow has set himself the task of not allowing any independent candidates to run for municipal offices.  Lists of candidates are already being drawn up by the mayor’s office, and all administrative resources will be put into working on them.  Our task is to support independent candidates and help them to become deputies who can represent the interests of citizens.’

“Open Elections” is a further education institute for people who share Open Russia’s values: an independent judiciary, a stable economy and the ability to elect new political leaders through open and honest elections.  The program is available to anyone regardless of their party affiliation.  The strategic goal of Open Russia’s education centre is to increase the effectiveness of independent public leaders who represent the interests of local citizens.

Students of the school have the opportunity to expand their knowledge and obtain new practical skills in the field of public political life and the running of election campaigns.  The study program consists of 14 courses, among which are:

  • ► Structuring a campaign on defending public interests
  • ► Structuring an election campaign and budgeting
  • ► Public exhibitions, meetings with the electorate and debating
  • ► Legal help for citizens
  • ► Local self-government in Moscow: power and possibilities etc

Study is free and each student can rely on the legal and technical assistance of Open Russia for registration and the running of election campaigns.

The Moscow school has already undertaken 200 training courses and 15 seminars with experts for 300 candidates standing for municipal elections in the Moscow region.  Open Russia has managed to create an organisation devoted to developing the effectiveness of independent community leaders.  

The main point behind the Moscow school’s work has been to develop a working system of checks and balances in order to make local government accountable and responsible.

In this sense, these elections are only the beginning.  The school is currently preparing its next row of candidates (bringing the number up to 400) and is creating a program for a future Moscow deputy school, which will aim to teach successful candidates how to influence what is going on in their respective regions.

In contrast to the Candidate School, the Deputy Educational Project will be orientated around our allies who share similar values.  Throughout the last 6 months clear principles have been established on which Open Russia seeks to build an alliance of municipal deputies in Moscow.  These principles are:

  • ► Independence, and not subservience to a party or government. In decision making, the opinions of local residents should be superior to the instructions from party leaders.
  • ► The search for commonalities, rather than differences. People should be allowed to hold different opinions, but nevertheless share common fundamental political values.  The judicial system should not discriminate on the basis of income or political views.  The economy should be transparent and competitive.
  • ► Defence of the real, rather than fictional interests of Muscovites. This includes control over construction and resettlement, the effective running of public services, good quality medicine, accessible pre-school and additional education, clear air, comfortable public transport and accountable management.
  • ► The effective work of deputies at all times, not just during elections; a system of direct and reciprocal contact with residents, development of a network of public servants, inter-regional groups of deputies.

Today the need for local independent actors is more important than ever as Russian civil society comes under increasing pressure from the authorities.  Creating a network of independently-minded candidates for local municipal elections is one of the few options left for Russians to influence their country’s political development.  When the Putin regime inevitably comes to an end, it is important that the country has young, talented and active people who will be willing to take responsibility for governing the country.

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