NY Dispatches: Putin reacts

According to Alexei Navalny’s campaign the protests that started on 23 January will continue this week. One thing that protesters have already achieved is forcing Vladimir Putin to address the accusations in Navalny investigation into his ill-gotten wealth, in person. This is a remarkable shift, and it raises important questions about the Kremlin’s intentions and strategy.

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Elections ahead – Part II

A week ago, I looked at regional electoral data to find out what these suggest about the electoral chances of United Russia in this year’s legislative election. I concluded that even with a popularity of under 30 percent nation-wide the party can preserve its two-thirds constitutional supermajority due to single-mandate districts with a first-past-the-post system and widespread election rigging. I added, however, that Alexey Navalny’s “smart voting” scheme risked upsetting this strategy, by forcing the authorities either to make concessions towards the parties of the “systemic” opposition or to commit significantly more egregious rigging, which in turn raises the risk of protests. Below I am taking a deeper dive into single-mandate districts and recount three stories from the past week that I think illustrate very well the concerns of the Kremlin. Bear with me, at the end of it Navalny will get another mention.  

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Elections ahead

This year Russia will hold nation-wide legislative elections and the talk of the town, for months, have been whether the Kremlin’s expectation is for United Russia, which presently holds 343 of 450 seats – a comfortable constitutional supermajority – in the Duma, to win a constitutional supermajority again and whether this is a realistic expectation at all. It is, as I show below. It is also risky.

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NY Dispatches: the FSB exposures

What the Bellingcat report on Alexey Navalny’s would-be killers from the Federal Security Service (FSB) and Navalny’s phone call to one of them reveal about the Kremlin’s prospects in 2021 and beyond.

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NY Dispatches: Fragile sovereignism

The State Duma adopted, in the first reading, a bill expanding the defition of “foreign agents”, a discriminatory law first adopted in 2012. It appears that the updated law will be approved in the final reading in early 2021, opening what seems to be a tough political season for the Kremlin. The law fits into a series of legislative changes that were adopted recently and reflect the Kremlin’s fears and concerns about the years ahead.

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NY Dispatches: Regional constitutional courts

This week the State Duma voted to approve the liquidation of regional constitutional courts. According to the law, which implements this year’s constitutional reform, regional constitutional courts will be abolished by 2023. They may be replaced by “constitutional councils” functioning along regional assemblies, but presently it is unclear what powers, if any, these will have. But why do these courts matter, and why does the Kremlin want to get rid of them? An explainer.

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NY Dispatches: Regions and bankruptcy

One of the news that generated significant interest over the past week was the “bankruptcy” of Ingushetia, a North Caucasian region. But Ingushetia going “bankrupt” is not exactly what happened. What Ingushetia is going through is close to bankruptcy, but not exactly that. A short explainer.

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