Another Candidate –Nemtsov– Quits Presidential Race

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Boris Nemtsov, a prominent opposition leader and presidential candidate from the Union of Right Forces (SPS) party, stepped down from the presidential race on December 26th. In a formal statement, Nemtsov criticized the political situation for the opposition. According to the party leader, presidential candidates don’t have equal access and opportunities for campaigning. Furthermore, the current administration is using full leverage of state propaganda, as well as the full resources of the administrative and defense organs against the opposition.

Nemtsov also urged Gennady Zyuganov of the Communist Party and Mikhail Kasyanov of the People’s Democratic Union to step down, commenting that the outcome of the election has been pre-determined.

The move marks the latest point in the receding pool of opposition candidates, and leaves Russians with one less option in the March, 2008 election. As a editorial argues, Nemtsov’s decision shows the extent to which legitimate opposition in Russia has been stifled and excluded from political life, a situation which is both dangerous and unstable:

Without Superfluous Opinions, December 26th [via BBC Monitoring]

The opposition is just as much an inherent element of the current state management system as the real parliament and government.

Boris Nemtsov’s refusal to take part in the elections and his designation of principles on which any normal presidential campaign should indeed be based and on which it clearly is not based in Russia today is an attempt to draw attention to the obvious exclusion of the opposition from the life of the country. The Russian authorities, whose leader won in 2000 with a result of “just” 52.52 per cent of those who went to the polls, will now basically not permit either a simple victory (only the victory of a constitutional majority of votes) of its puppet party in the parliamentary elections or a second round of voting in the presidential (never mind the possibility of the defeat of the successor)…

The refusal to acknowledge equal rights for the opposition along with the authorities to conduct any election campaign (elections in Russia are getting fewer and fewer, however), the refusal to debate with the opposition, a policy which United Russia has pursued in two Duma campaigns, the stranglehold of the administrative resource, the absence of equal access of each and every legal political force to the media -all these things are clear features of how the authorities’ “tsarist refusal” of any independent forms of control over itself by society is dominant. We are dealing with a Kremlin autocracy and a Kremlin opposition.

In Russia today the real opposition with links to the system of power is not legal parties but internal Kremlin political clans, pulled apart by a struggle for business assets and control over state institutions. The FSB is in opposition to State Narcotics Control [as received], and the Prosecutor-General’s Office is in opposition to its own Investigative Committee. Medvedev is actually the candidate from the opposition to the notional candidate [Sechin], and not the candidate from the four parties which supposedly at their own volition put him forward at a meeting with the current Russian president…

Boris Nemtsov did not want to take part in the type of farce which the parliamentary elections became and the presidential elections will almost certainly become. The interests of all people without exception cannot by definition coincide. If these non-coinciding interests are not expressed by legal political structures, the authorities will explode from within due to internal contradictions.

The opposition within the system also exists in order to prevent the authorities from exploding from within and the people from having the chance to change the rulers in line with the correct peaceful and legal procedures which in democratic republics (it is precisely this sort of state system that exists in Russia according to the Constitution) take the form of presidential and parliamentary elections.

Irrespective of Nemtsov’s chances of victory in the presidential elections, his refusal is a reminder of the systemic problem which has been created by the current authorities and which they will have to resolve, whoever of the Putin-Medvedev tandem becomes the real master of Russia after March 2008.