September 2, 2019 Special Dispatch No. 8255 Khodorkovsky Is Trying To Stop Navalny In The September 8 Local Elections

September 2, 2019
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 8255

Former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky is trying to stop Alexei Navalny from holding a "Smart Vote" in the 8 September local elections. As explained by independent media outlet, Navalny's plan consists of the following:

"The new initiative, [a website called] 'Smart Vote,'[1] will offer voting instructions in regional elections to maximize the odds of defeating the country’s ruling political party, United Russia… Smart Vote is based on the fact that United Russia candidates often win elections with just 30-35 percent of the votes in a particular race, while the majority of votes are scattered among the remaining candidates. Adapting the strategy he popularized in 2011, Navalny is now asking United Russia’s opponents to rally around whichever other candidate has the best chance of winning. Navalny’s team says it will identify this candidate in every race."[2]

Khodorkovsky, instead, urged people to support only the real opposition. "The September 8 election in Moscow is no longer an election. And they cannot be approached from the standpoint of political consultancy. This is an ethical, moral choice," Khodorkovsky suggested in his Telegram channel on August 22, 2019.[3]

It is not the first time that the two opposition leaders, Navalny and Khodorkosvsky, show their disagreements.

Talking about Khodorkovsky, already in 2017, Navalny said: "I have a very good attitude towards Mr. Khodorkovsky, he is an intelligent and good man, but he tends to take the side of the traditional opposition camp, which has led us all into a dead end."[4]

Khodorkovsky has repeatedly accused Navalny of leader-mania. In an interview with the German media outlet Der Spiegel, Khdorkovsky said: "Navalny's model is that of the leader. I know that is consistent with the mentality in today's Russia. He promises to ensure a more democratic form of government if he gets elected. But I think it would end in a new authoritarianism. I have also said that to Navalny. I support him as one of the politicians that a future Russia needs, but not as the sole savior who leads us to democracy. We don't need a benevolent czar, no matter what his name may be."[5]

Below is the article:[6]


The Main Struggle Is For The Title Of The Main Leader Of The Opposition

"A debate over the right to determine a plan for September 8 actions has intensified among the Russian opposition. Mikhail Khodorkovsky is trying to stop Alexei Navalny from holding a 'smart vote'. The ex-oligarch urged people to support only the real opposition [candidates]. Only those candidates who condemn the violent actions of the authorities should be considered as such. Inasmuch as the electoral protest has never led to serious results, it is clear that the main issue now is in the struggle for the title of the main leader of the dissenters.

"Recently, Khodorkovsky has talked several times about acceptable options for action in the Moscow City Duma elections. His rivalry with Navalny has become visible to the naked eye. For example, it was the ex-oligarch who first called for protest actions on September 8.

"'Easing the pressure on the government now means losing, to lose not the election but the near future,' Khodorkovsky said. He is sure that a month and a half ago it made sense to come up with various political technological methods on how best to beat the government, but doing so now is not only irrelevant, but treacherous with respect to those who took to the streets for the sake of the opposition's chance to participate in the elections and then suffered for it - either through administrative arrests or detention in a number of criminal cases.

"'The September 8 election in Moscow is no longer an election. And they cannot be approached from the standpoint of political consultancy. This is an ethical, moral choice. The main division, the principal dividing line is the attitude to repressions and the situation that gave rise to them,' this is the principle that Khodorkovsky suggests should form the basis of the opposition's entire electoral strategy. And therefore, he is sure, 'voting for candidates who do not clearly state their position against repression and the political use of criminal prosecution is a betrayal, whatever political arguments are used against this statement.'

"In these words, there is an obvious allusion to the idea of the 'smart voting' in the proposal by Navalny, who, as you know, calls for voting for any candidates capable of competing with pro-government ones - and possibly defeating them. The task, according to Navalny, is simply to inflict the maximum possible damage on the authorities. Khodorkovsky, without explicitly mentioning Navalny, says that elections should not be used for such a purely tactical purpose, but for a general aggravation of the political struggle with the authorities.

"This is why the ex-oligarch insists that people must be urged to support only genuine opposition [candidates]or those who were initially nominated in this capacity, or those who would give some kind of public vow to fight against criminal repressions for political purposes. Such a candidate should now condemn the attempt to initiate a number of criminal cases following the results of the July-August rallies and promise that he will continue such a struggle even after his possible election. In other cases, Khodorkovsky called on voters to spoil the ballots, but not with obscene inscriptions, but with slogans such as 'Freedom for political prisoners!'

"As an authority in support of precisely his plan, Khodorkovsky attracted an unregistered candidate to the Moscow City Duma, Dmitry Gudkov, who is now under arrest. Gudkov completely agrees with such actions that will preserve the opposition’s moral standing. He believes that representatives of pro-system parties are unsuitable applicants for a 'smart vote', because right now they are once again proving their 'Murzilochnost'.[7] Personally, Gudkov also does not attack Navalny personally, but this is done by his and Khodorkovsky’s new ally, the political emigrant Garry Kasparov. He stated directly that Navalny was working for the authorities.



"The latter has not yet responded to all these attacks, but his supporters in the social networks attack Khodorkovsky and his accomplices extremely harshly, for example, the ex-oligarch has already been accused of collaboration with FSB. Khodorkovsky is normally lenient with Internet trolls, but now he got angry and betrayed his true interest. He said that he would personally name the candidates for his 'smart vote' option - all those who would take the pledge of a true oppositionist."



[2], November 28, 2019.


[4], August 14, 2017.

[5], June 30, 2018.

[6], August 25, 2019.

[7] From a word "Murzilka", a slang expression, in this context an opposition politician, freelance journalist or a blogger secretly working for the state authorities.

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