09/17/2021, 10.19
RUSSIA
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Moscow, Duma elections: navalnists ready for 'smart vote'

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Aleksej Naval'nyj's supporters are betting on candidates from other parties to defeat Putin's United Russia. The main collaborators of the first opponent to the regime are in prison or banned by the authorities. "Chinese" tactics are used to control the internet.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - On the eve of the elections the supporters of the main opponent to Putinism, Aleksej Naval'nyj, detained in the Vladimir lager, have published the list of candidates chosen for the "smart vote", (umnoe golosovanie). On the app "Naval'nyj" you can find all the names constituency by constituency, despite furious attempts to obscure access "from above".

The navalnists had promised that they would publish the names of the chosen candidates only "when it will no longer be possible by law to remove them from the electoral lists": two days before the beginning of the competition. Some of them are already established politicians, such as Valery Raškin, Anastasia Bryukhanova, Sergei Obukhov and Sergei Mitrokhin in Moscow, or Boris Vishnevsky and Oksana Dmitrieva in St. Petersburg.

The absolute majority of "useful" candidates, ready to oppose the regime, paradoxically belongs to the Russian Communist Party (KPRF): 137, despite all the "Soviet nostalgia" inspired by Putin himself. Then there are 48 candidates of "Just Russia", a moderate anti-corruption party, 20 liberal-nationalists of Vladimir Zirinovskij's LdPR. Only 10 are from the liberal party "Yabloko", in which Naval'nyj himself was formed, and which is now highly criticized by its leader Grigory Javlinsky. The latter argues instead the need to maintain a line of "democratic testimony" without compromising with anyone, waiting for better times. Other candidates belong to small lists and civic groups, those few who have managed to overcome the trap of the electoral commissions.

Beyond the preferences to the candidates in the constituencies, the umnoe golosovanie proposes to put the cross on the symbol of any party except "United Russia", Putin's formation. The aim is to "destroy the monopoly of the party of power through the choice of credible opposition candidates." The hope is to be able to unite all those who do not recognize themselves in the Putin regime, to focus more and more on the most effective candidates and not to disperse the opposition votes on different candidates, perhaps presented by "owl lists" organized by the same allies of Putin. The uninominal system of most of the constituencies would then allow to defeat from time to time the various "edinorossy" (of United Russia) candidates.

The elections are held in a single round between today and September 19, to elect the 450 candidates to the State Duma, the lower house of the Moscow Parliament, which today has a majority of 338 edinorossy deputies. On the same days, governors of 12 federal entities (regions, republics, autonomous districts) are also to be elected, nine of which are directly elected and three of which will then be chosen by local parliaments. In 39 regions the members of the local legislative assemblies will be elected.

In recent months the Putin power has tried in every way to block the manoeuvre of the umnoe golosovanie, starting with the arrest and conviction of Naval'nyj himself at the beginning of the year, after his return from Germany for post-poisoning treatment in August 2020. The repressions then affected the entire Navalnist movement, starting with the leader's closest collaborators, all of whom were arrested or forbidden by the authorities to carry out public activities, so much so that several of them decided to emigrate to avoid ending up behind bars themselves. The same movement of the "Fund for the fight against corruption" founded by Naval'nyj was closed by authority and outlawed on charges of "extremism".

After flooding the electoral lists with fake candidates or "photocopies" of those preferred by the oppositions, the latest weapon in the days of the elections seems to be that of blocking the internet, or at least access to Naval'nyj-inspired apps and sites. Taking an example from the Chinese "masters", representatives of the state agency Roskomnadzor for the control of communications have blocked the 6 major VPNs (virtual private networks): Hola, Express, KeepSolid Unlimited, Nord VPN, Speedify and IPVanish.

The official reasons for the blockade explain that the use of VPNs "allows access to prohibited information and creates conditions for illegal activities, including those related to drug trafficking, child pornography and extremism", thus also to the unbearable "crime" of the political opposition.

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