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Russian election 2018: why Navalny with 2% support & a criminal conviction is the West’s ‘only’ opposition to Putin

March 2018 will almost certainly see Vladimir Putin re-elected to the presidency of the Russian Federation. His overwhelming popularity will pretty much guarantee this outcome. But this is not the story being told in the Western media.

Alexei Navalny aka the “firebrand bidding for Russia’s soul”

Even though Vladimir Putin’s ascendancy in the polls has been verified by Western pollsters, and even though a few more level-headed Western outlets feel obliged to admit he would likely win a free and fair election with ease, the majority of the mainstream media have taken the launch of the presidential campaign as a cue to almost entirely bury even these basic facts, and instead to focus on claims that the ‘only real opposition‘ in Russia has been banned from challenging Putin due to flagrant political censorship.

By ‘only real’ opposition they mean Alexei Anatolievich Navalny, lawyer, ‘activist’, occcasional chum of neo-nazis with an awkward tendency to compare racial minorities to cockroaches, and founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, who is, ironically, currently serving a suspended sentence for fraud and embezzlement, and is, thereby, banned under the Russian Federation’s constitution from running for elected office.

In case it has passed you by, the western media love this guy. For them he is a mash up of Jesus and John Lennon spiced with a whiff of bad boy. They eat him up. And when high enough on his amazingness they celebrate him in rich prose:

For the UK Independent Navalny is “Putin’s biggest rival”. For the BBC he is “Russia’s vociferous opposition leader”. For Time he is Putin’s “Nemesis”. For Masha –facts only slow me down – Gessen in the New Yorker it is nothing short of miraculous that he is still alive, such a threat he poses to Putin. To the Guardian, abandoning all pretence and going straight for the “most heedless eulogy” award, he is a “firebrand bidding for Russia’s soul.”

Are they fazed by his aforementioned comparison of Moslems to cockroaches? Or the equally regrettable time he called Georgians “rodents”? Or is this another example of the way in which racism is now acceptable in liberal circles, providing it’s done by someone endorsed and sanctified as “ours”?

But let’s just put the far-right racism question to one side for now and deal with some hard facts. Whether you like him or loathe him, Navalny is not Putin’s ‘nemesis’, and probably isn’t a ‘firebrand bidding for Russia’s soul’ either (though since I’m not sure what that is I suppose we can’t rule it out completely). And he absolutely is not and never was the ‘only real opposition’.

Navalny – like that other (posthumous) hero Boris Nemtsov – is a peripheral figure in Russian domestic politics. Before he was ruled inadmissible for election “Putin’s biggest rival” was polling between 1-4% in opinion polls, which puts him on about the same level as the UK Green Party, which polled 1.6% in the last general election and has one seat in parliament, or UKIP, which polled 2.1% and has no seats at all.

For comparison, in the current line-up of candidates, the Communist Party polled 17% in the previous presidential election and the same in 2008. It’s current candidate, Pavel Nikolayevich Grudinin is running in early polls at between 5-7%. Not a huge percentage, but roughly twice Navalny’s level of support.

Yet the western media has not – so far as I know – celebrated Grudinin with any cool photo feature pieces yet. In fact I am pretty sure they behave as if this man and his party do not even exist.

In addition there are a further fifteen other ‘declared candidates’ currently running. These include a Green candidate, an alternative Communist candidate running as the ‘Communists of Russia’, a ‘Liberal-Democrat’ (Zhirinovsky) and a Monarchist. None of these have been banned or accused of crimes to facilitate shutting them down. All of them or quite a few of them – are pretty much as entitled as Navalny to be described as “Putin’s nemesis”, but again they are barely acknowledged to exist in the Western media.

Imagine an article which pretended Jeremy Corbyn, the SNP et al did not exist and described Caroline Lucas as ‘the only real opposition’ to the Tories. Or that libertarian Gary Johnson – who polled 3% in the last election – was the best hope against Trump.

That is how skewed the western representation of this election really is.

But why is this the favoured approach? Well, maybe it’s not as stupid as it first seems.

As the polls now stand anyone who runs against Putin will look to be easily, if not humiliatingly, defeated. The lowest estimate puts VVP at 54% and the highest at around 73% – way ahead of any rival. It’s obvious any candidate the West supports will just prove to be an embarrassment for them on election day as they nosedive into oblivion.

Navalny is different. Navalny – due to his handy conviction for fraud – will be spared the inevitable shame that his tiny share of the vote predicts. So, when all the other hopefuls are defeated, he can remain with credibility intact. A political martyr. A living testimony to the fact the Russian elections are a fraud. The 2% popular support can be airbrushed away (as can his association with nazis, his unfortunate cockroach comparisons and his general litany of bizarre behaviour). He can become a sheep-dipped western hero whom Putin censored through fear. Post-election he will be, in the West at least, the perfect rallying point for a cause, which will have many bland and virtue-signalling faces, but which will at core be about discrediting the Russian presidency as fundamentally corrupt and unrepresentative, and trying, once again, to plant the seeds of color revolution.

Navalny has already proclaimed his contempt for democracy and a willingness to support the overthrow of elected governments, which of course makes him exactly the kind of “anti-corruption” liberal we like to work with. Back in 2011 he had this to say in the Russian magazine New Times:

they can elect anyone they like in March of 2012, but by April it will all be over…I think power will change hands by undemocratic ways

Asked if he means the Tunisian or Libyan method he says:

Let’s say a Tunisian scenario

He then adds for clarification:

The current Russian authorities are thieves and crooks. We must fight them, pressure them, resist them… This resistance can take different forms – from dialogue to crowds hauling officials out of their offices and hanging them

Oh yes, this is someone MI6 and the State Department can do business with alright. Putin in an orange jumpsuit in the Hague or being slaughtered Gaddafi-style on a live TV feed has probably been a major fantasy in Western corridors of power for at least the last five years.

That Navalny is being groomed for his role is undeniable. Hence the strange concurrence of his racist and far-rightist proclamations with the kind of soft-spoken and ill-defined calls for ‘reform’ that go over well with Western media and poorly-informed liberals. In our media it’s his “anti-corruption”, not his racism, that is the story. Because “anti-corruption” is about as non-commitally ok as you can get. It’s about as meaningful as calling yourself “anti-nastiness.” So vague, so generic everyone will be in favour of it in theory, and in practice it can mean whatever you want it to mean.

We can be sure of course, as per Navalny’s own words, that part of the practice will involve fostering the seeds of Snow Revolution #2. Because Russia’s elections – just like Chile and Venezuela and Grenada and Ukraine and Iran and Guatemala and Syria et al – were “corrupt” and therefore don’t count.

Ironically, as Bryan MacDonald astutely points out, it would have been better for Putin, and distinctly worse for Navalny, if he had not been banned from running. Navalny’s conviction has done nothing to bolster Putin’s power base (at 50-80% it doesn’t need bolstering), and has played right into the hands of those who want to discredit the Russian electoral process. His elimination effectively means:

[he] will become a spoiler for the next six years, and represent an excuse for foreign criticism of the Russian electoral system. Which, like it or not, at a time where sanctions are being used as a weapon, gives external actors an excuse to punish Russia. We already have the dubious “Magnitsky list,” so is it really worth risking a “Navalny list” making things even worse?

So, why has Navalny been handed the keys to martyrdom by a state machine that had nothing to lose by letting him ride his 2% support all the way to the polls? Was it a political miscalculation? Is he an innocent (if racist and pro-violence) man being given a helping hand by a clumsily inept attempt at silencing him? Or is he guilty as charged and reaping the fortuitous benefit of a legal system that is simply doing its job? Or is there some other factor involved?

We think this election period is a good time to revisit these and related questions. Is Russia a “kleptocracy”? Does Putin murder journalists? Is he personally corrupt? Does he – as claimed even by Sibel Edmonds – have “billions’ stashed away in Cyprus or elsewhere? Good questions to which good fact-based answers are sometimes in short supply .

If anyone would like to submit an article on the Navalny case or issues related to the coming election email us through our submissions page, and please put “Russia 2018” as your subject line.


37 Comments

  1. It’s clear that the “anti-imperialists” here rely too much on nationalist Russian media. How else can one explain the evidence-free statements of this tweet by off-g:

    https://twitter.com/OffGuardian0/status/957584670639747072

    Repeating the baseless smear that Navalny is some foreign puppet, without presenting evidence, is nothing but base anti-Americanism, brought on by an appetite of pro-Kremlin propaganda.

    • The evidence is presented in this article – which the tweet links to. Even those who support him have never questioned he is almost exclusively supported and promoted by the West. He has never polled more than 3-4% of the popular vote in Russia.

      Your pointless contrarianism and denial of universally accepted and easily proven facts is why many people dismiss you as a troll.

  2. Franz says

    Great article Catte. What can I say? Credit where credit is due.

    I hope that, having outlived his usefulness as a potential candidate for something-or- other, Navalny does not end up as a CIA ‘wet-job’ on some bridge in sight of Putin in the Kremlin.

  3. So Russia interferes in western elections yet the western state press only ‘reports’ upon the Russian elections?????.

  4. And who cares what corrupt western media is saying? I mean what is credibility of that media in the rest of the world (or even on their own turf)? Dying western “civilization” can bark and bark and bark.

  5. Marcus says

    Is there any evidence for Putin’s “billions”? I would really welcome a discussion of this on a good alt media site like this. If you research it all you find are stupid propagandist fact-free articles citing other stupid propagandist fact-free article, but yet even in pro-Putin pieces his ‘corruption’ tends to be accepted as fact – based on WHAT?

    Is Putin actually corrupt? Simple question. Very hard to find an answer based on evidence.

  6. Guest says

    Bryan McDonald is wrong to say that this guy should stand
    He shows that he is influenced by the western media’s views on Russia

    Russia has its laws

    He is a convicted criminal – proven twice
    He is serving his sentence.

    Russians are up holding their constitution why bend the law for such an irrelevant person?

    To argue that this should be done does not make sense. In the UK criminals can’t even vote – and mr McDonald thinks this guy should run for President?

    Russia has good candidates from established parties that add to the debate in Russia – it is there business.

  7. rtj1211 says

    Funny thing, I do not think too many Russians hang on every word of NYT, CNN, NBC and the like, possibly as many of them will not speak a word of English.

    So maybe if you wish to influence Russian voters you need a BBC Russian Service, a CNN broadcast in Russian etc etc. Course, that might be tricky given the way RT has been treated: why give free rein to Western spies to brainwash naive and innocent Russian voters eh? Especially as CNN will stuff its Moscow office full of CIA plants and Silicon Valley will unleash never ending Putin-hating botnets onto Russian social media…..

  8. Arthur Cadbury says

    Putin is the best thing to have happened to Russia since Gorbachev – end of story – thank you and goodnight

    • Big B says

      Arthur: Gorbie and Putin do not belong in the same category. IMHO. One is genuine (Putin); the other, a globalist shill? On the surface, perestroika might look like a progressive philosophy: but ‘global perestroika’ – funded by the American and international financial elite, lauded by the glitterati and cognoscenti, and lionised by the ‘progressive’ liberal media (eg the Guardian and FT)? Gorbie is an enemy of the people; all people everywhere: if he gets his way, all basic human rights (including indigenous peoples rights) will be gone (or at least, severely curtailed) – and we’ll be living in a homologous, open border, free market enterprise corporate dictatorship. But don’t take my word for it: check out the movers and shakers in the Raisa Gorbachev Foundation, Green Cross International and his World Forum (a ‘Brains Trust’ for the coming “paradigm shift”?) On indigenous rights and the basic human right to water: “corporations are the “only institutions” with the intellectual and financial potential to solve the world’s water problems and that he [Gorbie] is “prepared to work with them.”
      https://monthlyreview.org/2008/07/01/blue-covenant-the-alternative-water-future/
      Gorbachev is a Matryoshka doll: wherein the core is a hollow corporatist/capitalist heart?

  9. I remember reading that Navalny is helped and financed by George Soros and Mikhail Borisovich Khodorkovsky. They are truly wasting their ill-gotten money!

  10. I am so shocked, absolutely blown away! How could there be any opposition in Russian elections. I have been told by the American MSM that Russia is not a democracy but just warmed over Communism, that it is not capitalistic (make sure the Russian oligarchs know that) and that its Christianity is in question (does God know)? I guess I’ll just shake my head and doubt everything the MSM says from now on.

  11. Terry Washington says

    I for one am suspicious of Navalny’s “conviction”- from what I have read of judicial proceedings in present day Russia, the impartiality and independence of its courts are open to question!

    • Terry Washington.
      “….from what I have read of judicial proceedings in present day Russia, the impartiality and independence of its courts are open to question!….”
      Where have you read such information and do you have any links to this unbiased media?

  12. Whatever Putin does or doesn’t do does not matter in the Imperialist West and its propaganda media. The US and its proxies have one aim only Total World Dominance their long term Globalist Agenda. To achieve this aim requires military, political and economic dominance over all. Sadly Mr Putin and Russia stand in the way of this goal. The US also have a child a very spoilt child called Israel. This child has great demands too and enjoys special relationships with the Elite of the US Political system. The control of the Middle East fulfils the needs of both the US goals and its siblings goal of a great Isreal. Again Mr Putin stood in the way of these aims by offering support to Syria in its time of great need. So I would say to Mr Putin you stand in a strong position with regards to the US Elite because whatever you do will be condemned and the future of Russia is in your hands.

Please note the opinions expressed in the comments do not necessarily reflect those of the editors or of OffG as a whole