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Why No One Has The Guts To Challenge Putin

Analysis: After Vladimir Putin’s ruling party lost major ground in Russia’s recent parliamentary elections, opposition parties have done little to take advantage of the momentum. Why? They’re “spooked” by their own success.

Vladimir Putin (WEF)
Vladimir Putin (WEF)
Maksim Ivanov

MOSCOW - The surprisingly strong results of Russia's opposition parties in the recent parliamentary elections could have been a spark for next year's presidential campaign. Indeed, if you believe exit polls, the strong opposition showing was even stronger than the official results would have people believe. But why has the momentum fizzled so quickly?

The turnaround has apparently left opposition leaders so frightened that they started to disassociate themselves from the "street," essentially, from the very people who came to the Bolotnaya Square to defend the votes they gave to them. Indeed, various party leaders were spooked by their own success.

In a meeting with President Dimitry Medvedev, these same opposition leaders were calling the protesters an "orange threat." The bravest actions coming from the opposition was their attempt to force the resignation of the head of the electoral commission. But even that had a distinct business-as-usual feel to it.

Of course, in the presidential race, in contrast to the parliamentary elections, there can be only one winner. Vladimir Putin's opponents understand this fact perfectly. That is why, after winning a substantial number of Duma seats, the opposition leaders have essentially stopped making a public fuss, stopped denouncing the unfairness of the elections and stopped paying attention to their own voters.

The poor showing in the Duma elections has pushed Putin's United Russia party into an obviously insecure position. Still, the opposition has made no concerted effort to try to translate a win in the parliamentary balloting to a win in the presidential elections. Instead of making changes to account for the new circumstances, both the Communist Party and Liberal-Democratic Party have decided to run "veterans' for the presidency.

Same old faces

Sergei Mironov, the leader of Just Russia, is running for president, without having considered alternatives, although his party has some real possibilities. That only shows that he and his party are perfectly prepared to lose to candidate No. 1. Yabloko is presenting the same candidate as in the last two election cycles, refusing to consider other good possibilities. Instead, Mikhail Prokhorov is trying to attract the active part of the electorate. Yet even when Prokhorov announced he would run for president, he himself said that he saw no alternative to Putin.

The idea of presenting a single opposition candidate - either from the whole opposition or from the "democratic" opposition - was not even mentioned this time around. Just the opposite has come to pass: there are many candidates, and they are many differences among them.

Almost all of them have already lost at least once, and several of them have lost many times. These candidates will campaign with many different platforms - nationalization, defense of the Russian people, even the release of Mikhail Khodorkovsky. But none of them really intend to become the new anti-Putin leader. And the chance that any one of them could win in 2012 is no more likely then the apocalypse itself.

In this case, a full-fledged electoral campaign would be nothing more than a waste of money for the opposition. And a possible loss of moral authority, if a candidate who is more successful than expected gets spooked. The only people who will try to create a direct connection between the Duma elections and the presidential elections are the Kremlin's own political scientists (who Putin really does need, if he doesn't want to repeat what happened to United Russia in the parliament).

On the other hand, moving out of Putin's way is a pragmatic choice for the Duma's opposition parties. In the end, the opposition is going to have to work with the ruling power, not with the citizens, for the next five years. And the ruling power is not going to be happy with excessive activism. That's why it is completely logical that the opposition parties would do everything possible not to interfere with Putin's election, and even to make sure he wins outright in the first round.

Read the original article in Russian

Photo - WEF

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

That Man In Mariupol: Is Putin Using A Body Double To Avoid Public Appearances?

Putin really is meeting with Xi in Moscow — we know that. But there are credible experts saying that the person who showed up in Mariupol the day before was someone else — the latest report that the Russian president uses a doppelganger for meetings and appearances.

screen grab of Putin in a dark down jacket

During the visit to Mariupol, the Presidential office only released screen grabs of a video

Russian President Press Office/TASS via ZUMA
Anna Akage

Have no doubt, the Vladimir Putin we’re seeing alongside Xi Jinping this week is the real Vladimir Putin. But it’s a question that is being asked after a range of credible experts have accused the Russian president of sending a body double for a high-profile visit this past weekend in the occupied Ukrainian city of Mariupol.

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Reports and conspiracy theories have circulated in the past about the Russian leader using a stand-in because of health or security issues. But the reaction to the Kremlin leader's trip to Mariupol is the first time that multiple credible sources — including those who’ve spent time with him in the past — have cast doubt on the identity of the man who showed up in the southeastern Ukrainian city that Russia took over last spring after a months-long siege.

Russian opposition politician Gennady Gudkov is among those who confidently claim that a Putin look-alike, or rather one of his look-alikes, was in the Ukrainian city.

"Now that there is a war going on, I don't rule out the possibility that someone strongly resembling or disguised as Putin is playing his role," Gudkov said.

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