The Many Myths About Navalny
Published: August 19, 2013 (Issue # 1773)
The mayoral election will be held in Moscow in less than three weeks, and as election day draws nearer more people are asking, "Who is Mr. Navalny?"
There are at least three answers to that question. Outside a metro station you might run into one Navalny — a tall guy in a polo shirt and penny loafers patiently explaining to babushkas that since about 30 percent of the city budget is stolen by bureaucrats and their cronies, the quality of life in Moscow would improve by a third if corruption were eliminated.
Two other Navalnys live on the Internet. One is someone his supporters call an "ice breaker" capable of breaking up the authoritarian system built by President Vladimir Putin. These are the people backing Navalny's campaign slogan: "Change Russia, starting with Moscow."
But there is another version of Navalny popular on the Internet — that he is a "Kremlin project" created by dark forces who want to freeze the country in the state it is now, or even nudge it toward the abyss.
These aren't just Navalny's political opponents from United Russia. Oddly, among those who categorically reject Putin's political order, there are a lot of people who are likewise categorically against the candidate Navalny. Their dislike is based on two myths that are widely circulated on the Russian blogosphere.
The first myth is that Navalny isn't an independent figure but merely Acting Mayor Sergei Sobyanin's sparring partner for the Sept. 8 election. Sobyanin isn't a completely legitimate mayor since nobody elected him. This former Communist Party bureaucrat was appointed to the mayoral post by then-President Medvedev in October 2010. Sobyanin's political influence will grow if he wins the mayor's seat in a fair election. That's why he needs to beat real competitors from the opposition, especially Navalny.
This myth is busted by one irrefutable fact: No one intends to run a fair election in Moscow, with or without Navalny. Candidates other than Sobyanin do not have access to the main television stations, and even debates are broadcast on two cable stations that are not watched by or accessible to most Muscovites. In any case, Sobyanin has refused to take part in debates.
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