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diumenge, 18 de setembre de 2016

Subvertir la democracia en Rusia

Rusia celebra hoy unas elecciones parlamentarias en que la mayoría de los candidatos de la oposición han sido bloqueados o excluidos

Moscow (CNN)As millions of Russians vote in parliamentary elections this weekend, one of the stand-out features of the campaign has been the presence of the opposition.

In past votes, most opposition candidates have been blocked or excluded. But in this election, taking place on Sunday, hundreds of Kremlin critics have been allowed to run for office.

Some have even been given air time on Kremlin-controlled state television, which is normally free of any opposition voices.

"[The authorities] think they should create some kind of picture that elections are free and fair in accordance with international standards," said Mikhail Kasyanov, leader of the PARNAS opposition party.

Mapa de agresiones a la oposición
BELL?NGCAT.- Russia’s parliamentary elections on September 18th come at a critical moment for Vladimir V. Putin, whose party, United Russia (Edinaya Rossiya), is losing popular support amid economic crisis. Though Putin himself has remained insulated from national dissatisfaction, United Russia has not, threatening the party’s dominance and Putin’s own interests. After all, it is from United Russia that Putin’s successor, should he choose not to run in 2018, will come; and it is United Russia’s deputies in the Duma, currently possessing a majority, who will push through controversial bills such as this summer’s anti-terrorism laws. The upcoming elections offer Putin a chance to re-legitimize his party and protect his interests in the parliament.

With stakes that high, it is unsurprising that attacks on the opposition and instances of electoral misconduct have spiked in recent months. But few, if any, are being punished for it. Russia’s accountability vacuum is such that even with a reform-oriented official like Ella A. Pamfilova at the helm of the Central Election Commission (Tsentral’naya izbiratel’naya komissiya), those guilty of intimidating opposition politicians or engaging in electoral misconduct are unlikely to be prosecuted or penalized. It’s a situation made all the more egregious by the frequency with which perpetrators are caught on camera by journalists, bystanders, politicians, and activists.

Coercing Russia’s Opposition

Violence against the opposition, while mostly non-lethal, is becoming a norm in Russia. A report released this summer by the Center for Economic and Political Reforms (Tsentr ekonomicheskih i politicheskih reform) found that, halfway through the year, 2016 was already well on its way to becoming the most violent year for the opposition in recent history: while 2014 saw 60 attacks, 2016 had already witnessed 55 by the end of June.

Overwhelmingly, perpetrators of political violence belong to ultra-conservative elements in Russian society. Though these include Cossacks, for the most part, it is “national liberation” groups that carry out attacks against the opposition. Such organizations, like Anti-Maidan and the National Liberation Movement (Narodno osvoboditel’noe dvizhenie, or NOD), see Russia as being perpetually at war with the West and Russia’s opposition as a fifth column. Opposition leaders such as the Party of Progress’ (Partiya progressa) Aleksei A. Navalny and the People’s Freedom Party’s (Partiya narodnoy svobody, or PARNAS) Mikhail M. Kasyanov are regularly told to return to their “real” homelands, the U.S. and Europe, and attacks against them and their colleagues are launched with cries of “Get off our land!”

Throughout 2016, assailants have exploited knowledge of their targets’ campaigning schedules, which allows them to pursue candidates, most notably Kasyanov, across the country. From February to August, Kasyanov was harassed or attacked a total of six times. Of these instances, three took place in, or in front of, hotels where Kasyanov was staying; one occurred in an event hall he was due to speak at; and another saw him confronted in a restaurant he was dining at.

Other opposition politicians, including Navalny, who was assaulted after exiting a Novosibirsk courthouse in March and ambushed at an Anapa airport by Cossacks in May, have also had their itineraries used against them. More worryingly, some opposition figures, like PARNAS’ Aleksandr Bragin and Solidarity’s (Solidarnost’) Igor Ivanov, have been viciously assaulted in front of their very homes. In the former case, the attackers laid in wait for Bragin, who was attacked en route to his car; in the latter, Ivanov was lured out of his apartment when the assailants called him, claiming to have accidentally damaged his car.

Screenshot from a video posted by Alla Naumcheva showing attacks from the NOD and SERB movements. (source)Screenshot from a video posted by Alla Naumcheva showing attacks from the NOD and SERB movements. (source) Attackers’ tactics include throwing eggs, feces, cakes, and condoms (a humiliating experience for any public figure), striking with blunt objects, punching, kicking, and even firing non-lethal “traumatic pistols.” One particularly creative incident involved an attempt at forcibly putting a quilted jacket saying “Misha is a thief” onto Kasyanov, and underscored the often-theatrical dimension of political violence in Russia.

Whether by means of violence or humiliation, attackers aim to coerce opposition politicians into withdrawal from the public eye at a time when visibility and outreach are key to political success. In Kasyanov’s case, safety concerns led to the cancellation of at least one campaigning event, in Nizhny Novgorod.

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