And more about the latest non-elections [rather than ‘elections’ in Russia]. Some people assess their results as a relative failure of the authorities. In particular, they speak of a protest vote, as an obvious evidence of growing discontent with the authorities in connection with the [government’s arbitrary] raising the retirement age.
I would like to warn against illusions.
1. Voting against the present governors and representatives of the [ruling] United Russia party is a consequence not so much of the growing dissatisfaction with the government but represents a result of the purposeful policy of the authorities. For several years Putin has been consistently pursuing the line of shifting the responsibility for all problems and troubles of people to the regional leaders and officials. At the same time, the President appears as the supreme arbiter and people’s defender, the only one of his kind, qualitatively different from all other government officials. The latest televised call-in shows by Putin were made in accordance with this concept. So the system does not slip, it is not threatened by any break-ins. The system follows its logic.
2. The fact that candidates from the LDPR or from the Communists made it to the second round or even won the elections does not change anything. Gubernatorial posts in modern Russia are ordinary bureaucratic posts rigidly built into the «vertical of power» and have nothing in common with public policy. In case of the victory of a so-called «alternative» candidate, he/she simply takes the place of an official, joins the «vertical» and obeys its rules. But there is no real, meaningful alternative in the elections. And there is the municipal filter [envisaging collection of local deputies’ signatures in favour of registration of a candidate from a non-parliamentary party; whereas most of these deputies come from the United Russia party] in store for those who could try to «break the game». Looking for a source of optimism in the vote for candidates from the LDPR or from the Communists represents the logic of the «non-political protest» in the worst possible form, it has long proved its impasse and inefficiency.
3. Unfortunately, the system has been developing in such a way that it can neglect the protest moods. It increases (has already increased) the control and enforcement component and expects primarily to be protected, rather than be really supported by the population. Preventing with the help of the municipal filter even a seeming alternative, a stiff reaction to protest actions (pre-emptive arrest of organisers [of protest actions], police control, use of force and detentions) demonstrate, on the one hand, that the authorities have stopped their games with the protest, and on the other, that it was games, and all the successes of the «protest movement» (actions in 2013, certain relatively mass-scale events in the subsequent years, as, for example, the action with the ducks [against Prime Minister Medvedev]) resulted from the deliberate connivance of the government which acted within its logic and for his own purposes, rather than represented some success.
Consequently, the protest movement in Russia remains a «thing in itself,» fenced off from the country by police cordons and administrative barriers, and the government leads a game with people by means of its populist, administrative and forceful methods, and most importantly, it easily cultivates the idea of absence of any alternative to it.