How is Putin's real opposition experiencing the elections in Russia?

From today, March 15th, to Sunday, March 18th, we will vote in Russia, and no, there is no real opposition at the ballot box: it is certain that Putin will win, it remains to be seen for how long. The other three candidates are puppets of the Kremlin, good at giving the whole thing the appearance of democracy given the (necessarily distorted) perception that Russian citizens have of it, while at the same time strengthening the image of Putin himself; They give random and identical speeches, in television debates – in which the head of state never takes part because he is “too busy” – they are not concise, they are only there to respond to pressures, favors and threats, for which they are considered Actors they are suitable for this production. They are playing Putin's game, a great party game, and as if that wasn't enough, they have all been sanctioned at the international level.

The real antagonists, as the Navalny case itself shows, have no opportunity to take part in the vote and are initially put out of action: some are overthrown through violence and various intimidations, others are directly arrested and killed in show trials, and still others are excluded Series of bodies and laws deliberately created over the years that can ban candidacies in an almost arbitrary way, citing bureaucratic technicalities. Like the journalist and pacifist Yekaterina Duntsova, whose candidacy was prevented and who is now one of the souls of the true opposition. Because yes, there is a real opposition, however divided and diverse it may be, united above all by the desire to live in a liberal country. It belongs to the very people who were excluded from the elections, but it is there.

This is shown, for example, by the thousands of people seen at Navalny's funeral, which the state media has tried hard to hide, or the people who continue to fill his grave with flowers and tributes – in the last few weeks there have been over thirty thousand; People who are obviously not on Putin's side and are now demonstrating. But how are these elections going? What will they do these days?

For now, the strategy is clear: quietly show that you exist. Yulia Navalnaya, Navanly's wife, took up her husband's fight and arranged to meet everyone who was at the ballot box on Sunday at 12 p.m. Together and at the same time, to make it clear that they were there. It will be the so-called “South against Putin” that could lead to a new movement in her intentions, even more comprehensive than the one her husband had previously pursued – it must be said that his death at such a time, paradoxically, he has that Image strengthened and the enemies of the regime united, although obviously not everyone agreed with him. “There are many of us and we have to show ourselves,” that is the appeal. It seems that they have never been so compact. In itself, the mass “attack” could be a sign: if it goes as planned, we can imagine long queues at the polls and it will be a damage to our image.

Navalnaya did not give precise voting instructions, the rest of the opposition took care of them: Since it is risky to leave a blank ballot paper because it could be manipulated and “filled in” during the counting, the idea is to invalidate it with documents ( the most popular could be “Navanly”) or by ticking several candidates at the same time; In this way, the sum of zeros would represent a kind of fifth candidate, compared to the four candidates imposed by the regime, on which the protesters' votes would be concentrated. It would be a way to make Putin understand on a numerical level how many there are. The other idea, which in reality Navanly had revisited before his death and which now seems less viable, is to vote for one of the other three: this would serve to record the extent of the disagreement and would be a defeat for information the Kremlin and Putin himself, who is likely to find strong support among weak politicians, are kept there by the approval of his party.

In this sense, the good character could be Davankov, a forty-year-old former candidate for mayor of Moscow, whom the polls – always difficult to measure in such cases – show as the favorite among Putin's challengers at around 6%. On the one hand, it helps that most of its competitors are unpresentable, including old tools from the first post-Soviet Russia and others accused of sexual harassment (admission selection works the other way around). On the other hand, he is the only one who expresses a timid form of dissent, such as promoting peace, although he was in favor of the invasion of Ukraine at the time and is anything but a pacifist.

We will see. Meanwhile, Putin continues to fight and slander public figures, especially from the world of culture, who have taken a stand against him at such a sensitive moment. Singer Alla Pugachova risks losing the copyright to her songs and has made it clear that she will not return to Russia now that she is abroad. The same goes for another famous exile, chess master Garry Kasparov, a Kremlin arch-enemy since 2013 and recently officially banned.

But there is still a way to fight, Navalnaya announces, and that is that of legality, which her husband has long suggested. In the videos he shoots on social media to lead Sunday's protest, he explains that it will be necessary to slip into the alleys of the law and take the paths that the regime still considers feasible. Or rather, it can't help but be seen as still viable. A kind of civil disobedience to show how vulnerable the system still is. For example: The authorities cannot prevent us from voting at the same time, so let's start there; and the authorities still cannot ban voting with blank ballot papers, among other things. It will also continue to be possible to visit Navalny's grave and leave tributes in the coming days. Without noises or sensational gestures. This opposition moves in silence.

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