The campaign trail

September 2, 2016

State Duma candidate Vladislav Khodakovskiy talks about the campaign trail.

Vladislav Khodakovskiy

For a long time now I’ve wanted to write a brief overview of the election campaign, but lacked any free time to do so. Now, as I get myself ready for a series of meetings with residents, I have the opportunity to jot down a quick notes. A few preliminary conclusions can be drawn at this point:

More than a few people have rightly criticised the fact that there are now no urban voting districts, these having been merged with their rural counterparts.  In terms of securing victory, this will indeed prove extremely challenging and expensive. So, given the lack of administrative resources and extensive funds to dispatch activists, lawyers and attorneys to the countryside for “discussions” with local police and administration personnel, it would be impossible to prevail there if our campaign activities were to be obstructed.

Alongside the processes of activism and campaigning, that of electoral observation is also essential; observation requires lawyers, security personnel, and, of course, the observers themselves. Local observers are bullied and intimidated, while those that travel in from urban areas are simply ejected from polling stations. The Voronezh region, for example, witnessed several such incidents; as a result, certain villages registered a turnout of 101%.

We’ve managed to get a good look at what the regime has long been attempting to conceal

On the plus side, though, we’ve managed to get a good look at what the regime has long been attempting to conceal: non-existent civil rights, penury and rural despair. Can anyone imagine life in a village with no shops, no schools, no healthcare professionals, no district police officers, and where gypsies and drug addicts live by their own rules? Or life next to a factory whose directors have decided to skimp on filtration systems, and whose dust emissions are therefore so extreme that people can’t even open their windows or dry their washing outside?

I’m having to learn how to “roll with the punches.” Bogus stories are constantly emerging about how “bad” (to put it mildly) a person I am. At first I’d rise to the bait, but now I’m more relaxed about the whole thing. I get why they’re doing it, but it still seems weird that the people who’ve dubbed me a “nobody” then proceed to expend great efforts on writing all sorts of filth about my modest person. I have to fortify my nervous system, because this too is beneficial for me.

Lacking the money to employ a large campaign team, I’m having to do a lot of things myself – everything from distributing newspapers to organising meetings to negotiating with the media. I’ve managed to publish a few things for free in municipal newspapers, and also to submit some promos to the local branch of the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company, as well as to the Guberniya Channel. I’m now familiar with many of the difficulties faced by opposition candidates.

By way of a preliminary conclusion, I can say that I’ve acquired a great deal of experience and knowledge. The changes going on in our country – changes that are happening in people’s consciousness and within various social groups – are more apparent to me now.

Whatever the final outcome, the Open Russia team has provided a great learning environment for me. I’ve acquired experience of a modern election campaign. For this, I’m deeply grateful to all my colleagues who’ve been delving into our local problems, dispensing advice, and – most importantly – creating a sense of a team. A team of honest and energetic people – a team capable of victory!