“The Democratic Coalition has fallen apart.”

April 29, 2016

Mikhail Khodorkovsky 


The Democratic Coalition, created with an eye to the forthcoming parliamentary elections, has fallen apart.

The objectives behind its creation were clear and transparent: several political groups with an avowed commitment to democratic values decided to unite in an attempt to break through the 5% barrier and achieve Duma representation; PARNAS – one of two liberally-inclined parties with the right to put together its own election list – was the coalition’s core party.

The second party, Yabloko, refused to enter into coalition with anyone.

A system of primaries was chosen as a means to resolve points of contention between candidates. It gave a real advantage to candidates popular amongst influential users of the web. PARNAS, as the licence holder, asked for and secured several guaranteed positions on the list.

As far as I understand, no agreement was in place to coordinate the nomination of candidates in single-seat constituencies. .

I refused to take part in the Democratic Coalition because I don’t regard these elections as a genuine battlefield for power; rather, I believe that they represent an opportunity for young politicians to gain political experience and to demonstrate to the public that an alternative really does exist. In contrast, the coalition’s party lists are comprised of established politicians, who, as such, dominate public attention.

I was, and continue to be, highly sceptical about the degree to which it is currently feasible for politicians regarded as a genuine threat by the regime, and whom the regime does not want to see in the Duma, to secure seats in the latter.

It was obvious to me that the coalition would be broken apart and taken to pieces by any available means (although what actually did occur has, in its indecency, exceeded even my boldest expectations).

Unfortunately, the alliance has proved all too precarious – an alliance whose leaders surely could (and possibly did) foresee the inevitability of provocations, and who, just as surely, could (and possibly did) size up the consequences of a schism in advance.

I foresaw it too, and therefore refrained from committing myself.

I believe that, in the long run, it is better not to enter into any agreements if there’s a risk that you might fail to fulfil your obligations – and also that, if you have entered into an agreement, you must fulfil said obligations even if this is to the detriment of any short-term political interests.

I have no doubt that the regime will continue to push aside undesirable candidates using police methods so as to present the elections as “technically” free – that is, to conduct a final vote count without any overt fraud (at least in major cities).

Yabloko will most likely be given a consolation prize in the form of government funding, and perhaps a few agreed-upon parliamentary seats as well.

The PARNAS list is sure to be blocked, but a handful of candidates in single-seat constituencies may make it – in heavy confrontation, with some gaining political experience, and others being slapped with prison sentences.

I regret the fact that the coalition failed this test of its durability.

Open Russia, for our part, will continue as planned to support promising opposition candidates who prove themselves ready for a difficult battle – whatever region they’re from and in whatever capacity they may be nominated.

Let them gain political experience, let them demonstrate to the public that the opposition boasts new faces as well as new ideas.

This is our objective for 2016.

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