Mixed messages

Yesterday a proposal was raised in the Duma to cancel elections so long as Russia was still under “economic pressure” from the West, i.e. sanctions. Yes, the same sanctions they keep telling us do nothing and only hurt the West are apparently causing enough “economic pressure” that the Duma should consider cancelling the upcoming Duma and presidential elections. Sure.

First for you newbies let’s shut down something right here. No, this doesn’t represent Russia’s descent into “Stalinist totalitarianism” or some such nonsense. This is almost certainly not serious and probably won’t be brought up again. This is by no means the first time a Russian politician has suggested suspending elections. LDPR leader Zhirinovsky, despite technically being an opposition presidential candidate, once publicly suggested doing away with all elections indefinitely and renaming Putin “Supreme Commander.” The point is that this proposal is probably just another example of these scare tactics the government uses to panic people and remind them that if they don’t keep their heads down things can get a whole lot worse.

Just one problem though. I’m not saying that the proposal is going to turn into something serious, but in this case the message to the public is really garbled. Most Russians, including opposition supporters, have little illusions about change via the ballot box. Since no one believes in elections anyway, it almost seems like this is a cost-saving measure.

Who is this message even aimed at? The West, which imposed the sanctions on Russia, doesn’t believe in Russian democracy anyway. Therefore one can’t assert that this is some kind of threat like: “Lift your sanctions or look what we’ll do to our own people!” The Kremlin already demonstrated what it could do in that respect with the food import ban.

The message is even counter-productive as well, suggesting that Russia is in such danger thanks to crisis and those Western sanctions (which supposedly were helping Russia), the government can’t even afford to organize and rig some elections.

The most logical explanation I can think of in this case is that it was designed to troll and panic the liberals, which is often the case when you hear about some real draconian proposals being floated in the Duma. Even if they have no chance of winning anywhere, elections have become a sort of rallying point for the opposition and it gives them something concrete to do. Without that, they’d probably be reduced to holding the occasional rally in some sleeping district of Moscow. That and Russian liberals still seem very easy to freak out with bullshit proposals like this. Internet tax, exit visas- you name it and they’ll panic all over the internet for a couple days. You’d think they’d learn by now.

Finally, if it’s not any one of these motives, it could be possible that the message machine is breaking down somehow. Either that, or somebody’s been smoking spice. These days who knows?

So all in all it’s an educational experience and a good case study, but I’m fairly confident that the upcoming Duma and presidential elections will proceed as planned and I’m 100% confident that the United Russia party will maintain a majority while Vladimir Putin wins the presidency.


7 thoughts on “Mixed messages

  1. DM

    I don’t think Zhirinovsky should be brought up at all, because that guy is not taken seriously by anyone, so whatever he says is not a matter of conversation or any articles.

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      Many of the most ridiculous Duma proposals tend to come from Zhirinovsky-like figures, if not members of his own party.

      And I think he is legitimate to bring up because if he is such a clown, why is he always there, more or less in third place behind KPRF? In a function democracy, someone that idiotic would, over the course of a decade or so (if not far less), be driven out of politics. The fact that he’s still there tells you something is wrong.

      1. DM

        Makes sense now. The reason I wrote this is because I felt like he is not serious argument to assess situation or to make any reasonable conclusion on what’s going on.

        I’ve been impressed by your articles and would really appreciate a chance to discuss with you directly some Russian politics, so I was wondering if you could email me your contacts, I cannot find it on this site?

  2. sglover

    In a function democracy, someone that idiotic would, over the course of a decade or so (if not far less), be driven out of politics.

    Why am I reminded of the entire goddam Republican Party?!? But then, you did qualify it with, “In a functioning democracy”….

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      There is some solace in the fact that there is a sort of glass ceiling with idiotic Republican candidates. They don’t get nominated, and they usually don’t get to introduce their more idiotic bills at the Federal level. Of course primaries are always a circus. I suspect that the wackiness in this latest one is really some kind of intelligence gathering experiment. The GOP knows that something is very wrong and they need to figure out what it is if they ever want to see the inside of the White House some day.


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