There you go, I could blog now, there you have it. After all, I wasn’t so much wrong comparing Mikhail Prokhorov and his party to A Just Russia in 2006. They both had Evgeny Roizman, and the party in both cases went mad upon the nomination of Roizman. Both leaders suffered a humiliating demise orchestrated by the Kremlin as soon as their activities became too bold for the ruling elite. Even the columnist of Kommersant realised the apparent parallelism between the two cases I pointed out a month ago, which put light on a much greater issue. It is not sure any more whether the chief ideological workshop headed by Vladislav Surkov in the Kremlin can handle Russian politics as effectively as it used to. Still, paradoxically, this emerging struggle within the ruling elite, which is far from being any striking news, may eventually lead to a more daring liberalisation of Russian politics.
I am still firm in my belief that the fate of Right Cause was doomed at the very moment when Prokhorov was chosen to lead the party. As I blogged then, if the ruling elite had really wanted to build up the party as a long-term project, they would have chosen a different leader, closer to the ranks of the elite. The selection of Prokhorov itself was a sabotage or a compromise. If it was the former, Vladislav Surkov missed the bigger picture, which I find unlikely. If it was the latter, though, it means that for the time being neither the proponents of political reform, nor the old guard can overpower the other team. This latter version seems to be supported by the recent closure of the campaign office of the All-Russia Popular Front, as Joera Mulders pointed out so eminently. If this is the case, Surkov is caught up in the struggle between the two parts of the elite which also means that he is losing a good deal of his power, or, else put, his room for manoeuvring. He has to choose. But being a clever man, I quite think that he’s now playing a double game.
There may be an important litmus test for this, as things seem to stand now. As many noticed, Grigory Yavlinsky, the founder of Yabloko has, all of a sudden, returned to the political scene. Couldn’t this mean that Russians won’t stay “empty handed with United Russia, the communists and good old Zhirinovsky”, as Mulders suggests it? If Yabloko is allowed to re-enter the Duma, it will mean a whole new phase of Russian political liberalisation, the dismantling of the Putin era. Whether Surkov stays or leaves, should this happen, will indicate whether the siloviki have lost their influence “only” over the main currents of domestic politics or also in the “deep state” as well. After all – and this is a point where I disagree with Mulders – Medvedev does not have to “get rid” of Surkov, since winning him over is much better and will allow a much smoother transition.
If the train of my thoughts is right, and if Prokhorov was an expendable compromise, however loud he may complain, dismissing him a week before the congress of United Russia was a brave and clever stunt from the part of Medvedev (and, ultimately, Surkov). If Surkov really is a double agent, but, as I think, sees his future rather in a Russia where the siloviki are slowly put aside, he may have lulled whatever suspicions the old guard that still dominates United Russia may have about Medvedev, and – together with the recent amendments to the law on the Federation Council, which, ultimately will strengthen the legislature, and consequently, the dominant force in the Duma – prepared the ground for the presidential nomination of Medvedev.
Which has to happen now already, as there’s no better moment.
Update: a day after the publication of this blogpost, Yavlinsky gave a 35-minute interview in the television talkshow “Mnenie”. Furthermore, Brian Whitmore published a story on the matter as well. As I wrote on Tuesday: this is going somewhere.