New Democratic Coalition to Test the Kremlin

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At last, some good news has emerged from Russia. Despite escalating political repression, war in Ukraine, and the February 27th murder of Boris Nemtsov, the democratic opposition has united on a joint platform to contest regional elections in 2015 and national parliamentary polls in 2016. The coalition includes Nemtsov’s party, RPR-Parnas, co-chaired by Mikhail Kasyanov, Alexei Navalny’s Party of Progress, and four other parties. Open Russia, a civic organization headed by the exiled former businessman and political prisoner Mikhail Khodorkovsky, has endorsed the grouping. (Kasyanov, a former Russian prime minister, is currently on a visit to the US. His remarks at the Council on Foreign Relations at 6:30 p.m. Eastern time, Thursday April 23rd, can be viewed live here.)

t’s not that the prospects for a free campaign and honest polling are so good. The opposition faces barriers to ballot access and to free media. Then, there are pressures that citizens of established democracies can only imagine. While the parties were agreeing on their coalition, the authorities interrogated Natalia Pelevine, a rising opposition politician, and raided her apartment.

On the other hand, the risks involved in the upcoming campaigns do not all fall only on the opposition. According to Leonid Volkov of the Party of Progress, elections make President Vladimir Putin vulnerable as well. Blatant rigging could trigger new protests like those of 2011–12, while fair elections could give the opposition a toehold in government, including a role in nominating a presidential candidate.

- This post can be read for free in its entirety at Democracy Road, FPI Senior Fellow Ellen Bork's blog at World Affairs Journal

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