Destinations Magazine

Russian Politics: Through the Looking Glass

By Stizzard

IN RUSSIA’S political wonderland losers can be winners and winners losers. Two months ago Alexei Navalny, a leading opposition figure, was sentenced to five years in jail and led away in handcuffs. On September 9th he walked triumphantly on to the stage in Bolotnaya Square, the scene of protests over the past two years, not as a man who had just lost the Moscow mayoral election, but as a national politician who had broken the Kremlin’s grip on politics.Having gone from 3% at the start of the campaign to 27.3%, Mr Navalny was a clear political winner. It was the best result for any opposition politician since Vladimir Putin came to power. “I am trying to understand, is this a rally of victory or defeat?” he asked a crowd of 30,000 fans. “Victory,” sang the crowd. “Politics has finally been born in Russia,” Mr Navalny boomed.Less than 24 hours earlier, Sergei Sobyanin, the Kremlin-backed incumbent who won 51.3% of the votes, barely enough to avoid a second round, claimed victory on the same stage. Addressing thousands of bussed-in local employees, Mr Sobyanin looked tense. He took credit for organising the most honest and transparent election in Moscow’s history. Though the playing field was hardly level, it was the most competitive election Russia has seen in years. Letting Mr Navalny run and allowing a broadly honest count of votes was Mr Sobyanin’s idea, albeit overseen by…

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