Russia's discontent with Putin bubbles up

Though Vladimir Putin's presidential re-election in March will make international headlines, the greatest achievement...

Posted: Jan 9, 2018 2:02 PM
Updated: Jan 9, 2018 2:02 PM

Though Vladimir Putin's presidential re-election in March will make international headlines, the greatest achievement of the election cycle will be the giant strides that Russian society has taken despite the government's attempts to squash any form of dissent.

With a number of new candidates running in the election, the discourse is beginning to change. There is a renewed focus on an improved domestic agenda and a serious conversation about issues of patronage that perpetuate a system benefiting only the wealthy few.

It's not for nothing that Alexei Navalny's rallies draw thousands of people all around the country. People want to hear from Navalny, an anti-corruption blogger and lawyer, who was the most serious Putin challenger in the upcoming elections until he was barred from running because of a corruption conviction in a fraud case. Navalny's critics believe this was a politically motivated conviction -- and Navalny has vowed to appeal.

Though Navalny is perhaps Putin's best-known opposition -- and likely the one the Kremlin views as most threatening, there are a number of Putin critics running in the next election, and they are making their voices known. Consider the case of Grigory Yavlinsky, a leader of the liberal Yabloko Party and another presidential candidate in the upcoming election. He was barred from running in Russia's 2012 presidential election, despite collecting 2 million signatures for his nomination.

And yet Yavlinksy recently appeared on Kremlin-controlled federal TV channels -- NTV and Russia-1 -- for the first time in years, and he didn't talk about American unemployment, the "Kiev junta," Russian's ban from the Olympic Games or the World Cup draw. Instead, he spoke about Russia's economic and social policies, the need for change and how to tackle poverty and corruption in Moscow.

And then there was a recent episode of "Sunday Evening with Vladimir Solovyov" -- among the top 10 television shows on Russia-1. Solovyov, host of the popular daily political debate show, is known as a Kremlin propagandist and aggressive polemicist. Despite his reputation, he interviewed Ksenia Sobchak, 36, who is also running for president in the upcoming election and sees herself not just as an opponent to Putin, but as "against all" candidate (this is her campaign slogan). On his show, Sobchak, to whom I am an adviser, advocated for voting against a "politics as usual" system and disrupting the status quo.

Just imagine it: A seasoned opposition politician (Yavlinksky) and Russia's youngest presidential candidate (Sobchak) were given chances to speak freely on Kremlin-owned state television about Russia's internal problems and their ideas for how to fix entrenched systems of corruption.

Kremlin airwaves did not always give such access to opposition candidates. Just two years ago, during the 2016 State Duma (lower house of the Russian Federal Assembly) campaign, opposition candidates were given barely two minutes of TV time on Moscow local television to introduce their agenda and their campaign.

Today, political candidates' appearances form a more regular part of the TV schedule, and they have the freedom to say quite a lot. Just consider that in the same prime time interview, Sobchak claimed that Crimea "belong[ed] to Ukraine" -- a remark which the Kremlin could have penalized harshly just a few years back.

So why is the Kremlin granting freedom of speech to opposition candidates on state-owned channels, which reach nearly the entire population? Perhaps the administration finally understands that while it's possible to keep Navalny out of the presidential election, the forces that gave rise to him can no longer be ignored. Systemic inequality, rampant patronage in the Kremlin and a sluggish economy are no longer acceptable.

Or, perhaps the Kremlin may be afraid of lower voter turnout -- an indication of voter apathy and a decreasing legitimacy in the government. By allowing the semblance of increased competition, the Kremlin may be hoping to engage more voters -- and get higher voter turnout on Election Day.

Meanwhile, Putin is trying to portray to the international community that Russia isn't the oligarchy it is frequently accused of being. Granting TV access to the opposition candidates might be Putin's strategy to show that Russia is a democracy that allows for opposition voices and grants them freedom of speech.

And perhaps the Kremlin is willing to grant this kind of freedom because he does not believe any of the opposition candidates are serious opponents at the polls. But it would be wrong to make such an assumption. Putin may very well win in March, but with a sluggish economy, rampant unemployment and a growing sense of frustration with politics as usual, the future does not look nearly as rosy as the Kremlin would like to delude itself into thinking.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 24190

Reported Deaths: 1036
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin8181606
Ramsey2863122
Stearns201413
Nobles15125
Anoka136370
Dakota126354
Washington61731
Olmsted60810
Kandiyohi4901
Rice4522
Clay42426
Scott4082
Todd3130
Wright3051
Mower3031
Sherburne2372
Carver2062
Benton1753
Steele1590
Blue Earth1380
Martin1295
St. Louis11814
Freeborn1150
Pine890
Nicollet8610
Unassigned8610
Winona7915
Carlton730
Watonwan710
Cottonwood700
Crow Wing682
Goodhue663
Otter Tail640
Chisago611
Polk612
Itasca5410
Dodge520
Chippewa491
Lyon490
Morrison450
Meeker450
Le Sueur441
Douglas410
Becker390
Jackson390
Murray390
McLeod340
Isanti320
Waseca260
Rock220
Mille Lacs191
Faribault180
Swift180
Wabasha180
Fillmore171
Pennington170
Sibley160
Brown152
Beltrami140
Cass132
Norman130
Pipestone120
Kanabec111
Wilkin113
Marshall100
Pope90
Wadena90
Aitkin80
Koochiching70
Yellow Medicine60
Mahnomen61
Lincoln50
Renville50
Big Stone40
Grant40
Red Lake40
Redwood40
Clearwater30
Hubbard30
Traverse30
Lac qui Parle30
Roseau30
Houston20
Lake10
Kittson10
Stevens10

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 19217

Reported Deaths: 531
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk4160125
Woodbury274034
Black Hawk173944
Linn94976
Dallas89220
Marshall89216
Buena Vista7350
Johnson6149
Wapello5589
Muscatine55641
Crawford5142
Tama40227
Scott35810
Dubuque34518
Louisa34311
Jasper26116
Pottawattamie2578
Sioux2190
Washington1888
Wright1670
Plymouth1292
Warren1260
Allamakee1204
Story1091
Mahaska9310
Poweshiek908
Henry711
Bremer696
Des Moines621
Clinton611
Boone610
Taylor540
Clarke530
Guthrie503
Cedar461
Benton411
Webster391
Monroe385
Shelby370
Jones360
Hamilton350
Clayton343
Iowa330
Buchanan330
Osceola330
Marion320
Cerro Gordo281
Cherokee280
Madison282
Fayette270
Lee250
Winneshiek240
Monona240
Jefferson230
Harrison220
Davis210
Lyon210
Dickinson200
Grundy200
Mills190
Floyd191
Sac180
Humboldt170
Lucas170
Hardin160
Hancock160
Delaware150
Keokuk150
Clay150
Appanoose153
Butler151
Emmet140
Ida140
Page130
Greene130
Franklin130
Cass120
Howard120
Audubon121
Jackson120
Winnebago110
Pocahontas110
Chickasaw100
Carroll90
Van Buren90
Adair90
Kossuth90
Union70
Adams70
Montgomery70
Palo Alto60
Unassigned60
Fremont40
Mitchell40
Ringgold40
Worth30
Calhoun20
Wayne10
Decatur10
Rochester
Few Clouds
45° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 41°
Mason City
Clear
48° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 46°
Albert Lea
Clear
48° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 48°
Austin
Clear
48° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 48°
Charles City
Clear
48° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 46°
Sunnier skies for the weekend
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Rochester People's Rally

Image

Religious leaders call for justice for George Floyd

Image

Rochester downtown under curfew Saturday night

Image

Sean Weather 5/30

Image

Governor Walz GivesUpdate

Image

Gov. Walz Addresses Minnesotans in Overnight Press Conference

Image

Riots, Fires continue in Minneapolis

Image

Protesters in Downtown Rochester

Image

Mower County Fair will go on as planned

Image

Minneapolis Gas Stations Shut Down

Community Events