The Failure of the Primaries in the Russian Non-Pariamentary Opposition

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The Democratic Coalition primaries, the union of non-system opposition parties, ended in a failure and a scandal. Electronic voting was prematurely stopped because the voters’ personal data became publicly accessible. The link to the database with the voters’ names, birth dates, email addresses, telephone numbers, usernames and passwords to the accounts appeared at the site of the PARNAS, an opposition party without a single seat in the State Duma. The party leaders were quick to blame hackers, but Alexey Navalny, who had earlier quit the Democratic Coalition, accused his former allies and called on the PARNAS leaders to resign.

About 25 thousand people who supplied their data were affected (earlier they predicted the turnout of 200 thousand people). The database which was made accessible reveals that at least several hundred of the registered users were bots. The same password used and the same IP-address definitely point to the fact. Meanwhile, the voting outcome disadvantaged Mikhail Kasyanov. Therefore, it was beneficial for him that everything was cancelled.

The PARNAS party also decided to ignore the results and the party list was topped by three current leaders. Apart from Mikhail Kasyanov, it includes historian Andrey Zubov and Andrey Pivovarov, co-chairman of the St. Petersburg’s branch of the party. Meanwhile, Alexey Navalny, former member of the Democratic Coalition, blamed his former partner for the failure and urged Mikhail Kasyanov to resign. The latter in return retorted that they were in quite a tough spot because of Navalny’s idea to hold ​​primaries.

Experts believe that had Kasyanov participated in the primaries, he would have most certainly lost them. It would have raised the issue of party leadership and of compiling the party list. In contrast to their predecessors from Navalny’s team, PARNAS’ current leaders lack an ability to galvanize people into action online. The number of votes they gained is a vivid illustration. Not a single PARNAS member entered the top five.

Pavel Danilin, Director General of the Political Analysis Center, considers the scandal understandable in a series of the failures and suggests that the PARNAS party should dissolve itself:

The situation is silly, ridiculous and quite expectable. Actually, when the Coordination Council was being elected, Russia’s protest movement encountered problems with publishing the information about the organization’s members. After a while, the regional primaries, though nominal, turned out to be a disaster for the opposition. As of now, the primaries rewitnessed a complete fiasco of Russia’s opposition and it is not something extraordinary; it is consistent with all scandals and quarrels around the PARNAS party. And the only step, which the People’s Freedom Party should welcome, involves the voluntary dissolution as even in Moscow it is getting plainly evident that amid scandals the party will do badly at the parliamentary elections. 

Rostislav Turovsky, Vice President of the Center for Political Technologies, believes that Alexey Navalny’s behavior does him a great disservice:

If we speak about the evolving scandal between Navalny and Kasyanov and its implications for the party’s positions, as I see it, the Navalny’s major task is to ding his niche during this electoral campaign. He failed to accomplish this in the People’s Freedom Party against the backdrop of squabbles and the incompatibility of numerous players who attempted to join the Democratic Coalition. He has another possible alternative. As we know, it is an alliance with the “Yabloko” party, but I would not rush into conclusions about his success.

In any case, as a politician Navalny is trying to earn his place in the sun. Yet, as I put it, it would be wrong for him personally, if he is perceived as a spoiler towards the PARNAS party. If it looks like that, the negative attitude towards Navalny will be adopted among the opposition figures, notwithstanding all the faults of the PARNAS party and Kasyanov. His image will be ruined if he is labeled a spoiler of the Democratic Coalition or an actor who ruins others’ agenda rather than establishes his own. For him it could be tantamount to a political catastrophe. It remains to be seen, whether he will be able to become a positive player rather than a spoiler at this electoral campaign. However, it would be better for him to seek to do this, instead of being enmeshed in the information warfare with Kasyanov and other rivals.

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