Izvestia’s Sergey Podosenov queries political experts as to why a new case has been launched against Navalny. The concensus is that he is becoming too popular, or violated informal understandings.
Navalny Violated Informal Arrangements
“Izvestia” sources talk about the background of the Prosecutor General Office attack upon the opposition leader.
Vladimir Zhirinovsky is known to have asked the prosecutor’s office the other day to check the sources of Alexei Navalny’s campaign funding. The Liberal Democrat opposition leader suspects about 20 million rubles have been raised, including money received from abroad. The Prosecutor General’s Office has confirmed that some of the money transferred on the internet by Navalny’s associates using foreign IP-addresses.
“Through the electronic payment system ‘Yandex.Money’ more than 300 foreign legal entities and individuals, as well as anonymous donors from 46 countries (including the United States, Finland, the UK, Switzerland and Canada) using 347 IP-addresses have transferred to Navalney’s electronic wallet as well as to those of his campaign staff N.N. Lyaskina, K.S. Jankauskas and V.L. Ashurkova money for Alexei Navalny’s election campaign as candidate for mayor of Moscow”, said Minister Yuri Chaika.
Since the law prohibits the anonymous and foreign funding of political activity, the investigation results were sent to the Interior Ministry in order to determine whether a criminal charge be made.
Navalny himself responded by indicating that the foreign IP-addresses of senders does not say anything about their citizenship. A similar opinion was expressed by the ‘Yandex.Money’ press service:
“We cannot understand by what parameters the Prosecutor General’s Office drew the conclusion that foreigners are involved … For example, if you are on holiday in Italy and are sending money from there, you still remain a Russian citizen: the ruble transfer is considered to be a domestic one.
“Be that as it may, having become involved in a matter involving the foreign funding of Navalny’s campaign, the Prosecutor General will see the matter through to the very end, namely in court”, said a Kremlin source. But Navalny will not be granted such a gift as being withdrawn from the election: that, according to the source, would not be in Sergei Sobyanin’s interests, who has already done much so as to ensure that his opponent will be able participate in the elections.
Nevertheless, there await for Navalny complex and quite serious problems. According to what law enforcement agencies source has told “Izvestia”, quite soon Navalny may well be prosecuted as regards matters concerning his election funding. A source close to the presidential administration has suggested that a case will be announced either when Navalny reveals a fund of unwelcome information for the authorities (such as the campaigns concerning Sobyanin’s daughter’s apartment) or if his rating increases too much.
Those that are closely supportive of Navalny and who provide links to their own “sociological service” are already talking about 18-percent of voters supporting their candidate, although at the moment this is just propaganda. “At his election headquarters, Navalny has no skills whatsoever and no experience in the use of sociological tools”, the deputy director of the “Levada Centre”, Alexei Grazhdankin. “[Head of Staff Leonid] Volkov has posted some data that differs significantly from the results of sociological research.” Nevertheless, the Kremlin seriously refers to the possibility of an increase in the opposition rating.
In answering the question of why the authorities have demanded that the blogger be threatened with another criminal case, experts interviewed by “Izvestia” put forward three possible reasons, and only one of them being concerned with Navalny’s rating. Those close to the Kremlin said that the decision to allow Navalny take part in the elections was arrived at because the presidential administration was convinced that he would only pick up something like 5-7% of the vote. However, after the verdict in Kirov, his rating went up beyond these limits. According to the research made by the firm Synovate Comcon on August 7, if elections had been held on the Sunday following the verdict, Alexey Navalny could have got 15% of the vote.
“The authorities were counting on a Navalny suffering a “blistering” loss such as that which Evgeniya Chirikova experienced at the Khimki mayoral election, when she was unable to achieve a significant result” (In her hometown she scored 17.5% against 48% for United Russia Oleg Yadav. – “Izvestia”), argues the Director of the Centre for Political Studies at the University of Finance, directed by Pavel Salin. “She’s lost in quite a fair campaign and since then has generally disappeared from view. The same was calculated to happen to Navalny. However, judging by recent events, his rating is apparently now being measured in double digits. So there was launched an information war, whose purpose is to make Navalny move from attack to defence, and to force him to start making excuses.
Valery Fyodorov, the general director of the VTsIOM polling organization, does not agree with this version of events, namely that Navalny’s ratings are growing. According to him, the opposition support is much lower than that claimed by Comcon:
“Navalny’s and Sobyanin’s ratings are still at the same position (9% and 55%, respectively – “Izvestia”). If there is an increase in ratings, it’ll be during the last two weeks before the election.”
Fedorov believes that the current attack on Navalny is aimed at denying his sources of funding.
“Navalny has proved with his fundraising that it is possible to campaign using money donated by citizens, and not by big business. This fact hasn’t gone unnoticed and it is extremely dangerous for the government, for control of the individual is virtually impossible. It’s like the situation with Barack Obama: a small payment, but many willing to pay. And this is a dangerous predicament: The risk of creating politicians who can’t be controlled,” says the VTsIOM CEO.
Another version that has been put forward is that made by the proponents of the “different towers of the Kremlin” theory. The first Vice-President of the Centre for Political Technologies, Alexei Makarkin, believes that there has now begun a new round of fighting between supporters of hard and soft policies.
“There is both a minimum program and a maximum program in order that the elections be held fairly and Navalny loses. The maximum program: That he takes his place and doesn’t rock the boat. The decision whether he take part in the election will be made in the Kremlin. And was already the case when he was arrested. No wonder then that he was released by the prosecutor’s office and now he’s being accused of new violations,” said Makarkin.
The reason why the story of the funding was chosen as an instrument of pressure on the opposition and not, for example, that of “Kirovles” is obvious: Vladimir Putin, having expressed his surprise that the one of those involved in the case (the director of “Kirovlesa”, Opalev) received a suspended sentence, whilst the other (Navalny) was given a custodial one, in fact cancelled the possibility of threatening Navalny with the “Kirovles” affair. It has now been given to the oppositionist to understand that it is not allowed to break the unofficial rules of that game that has helped him. In particular, say the sources, the authorities now realize that Navalny has begun work amongst those voters that do not belong to him: The pensioners and public sector employees. Naturally, team Sobyanin will undertake all the necessary steps so that the blogger returns to his network of supporters.