Navalny’s “Smart Vote” Won The Moscow Opposition Just 3 Seats (Out of 45)

As I wrote in my post on the Moscow Duma elections, which took place on September 8, the electoral strategy of the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) – the main pro-Western opposition front to Putin headed by Navalny and his campaign manager Leonid Volkov – was the so-called “Smart Vote.” Claiming that many of their candidates had been unfairly denied registration, they compiled a list of candidates that they claimed had the highest chances of beating United Russia in their districts (okrugs) and called on supporters to tactically vote for them.

The results are in, and Navalny and his followers are claiming vindication for their strategy, with the opposition – mainly Communists, as well as some Yabloko, Fair Russia, and independent candidates – winning 20/45 Moscow City Duma seats. RFERL hyperbolically calls these elections a “new hope” in the struggle against Darth Putler; the Moscow hack pack uncritically accepts these claims, as do various “Russia hands” who rarely if ever even set foot in Russia.

In reality, this is all nothing more than self-congratulatory pablum.

First, let’s note that there were few people who cared about these elections, considering the 22% turnout and that the positions in question are rather irrelevant in the great scheme of things. Furthermore, United Russia’s popularity is near record lows, a lingering by-effect of the pensions reform last year. It is therefore not surprising that opposition candidates would meet with success in such an environment, regardless of how Navalny told them to vote. In Moscow, the KPRF is the default “protest” party, so a good performance from them was to be expected.

This point becomes especially obvious when one considers developments outside Moscow. For instance, as RT’s Bryan MacDonald notes, giving credit to the 34/35 seat victory of the nationalist LDPR in the Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk – where the governor also belongs to the LDPR, and who won about 70% of the vote last year – seems far-fetched. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Far East and Siberian legislative assemblies, United Russia won solid majorities. Smart Vote was clearly irrelevant in all of those cases.

Happily, though, we don’t have to limit ourselves to unquantified speculation about the size of the Smart Vote effect, because we happened to get a clean, real life “experiment” that makes possible a much more precise estimate.

In the district of Chertanovo (okrug №.30), the three main contenders were United Russia-backed Margarita Rusetskaya, the Communist Vladislav Zhukovsky, and the independent Roman Yuneman. In a poll commissioned by Yuneman and carried out during August 23-26 by an independent organization, Yuneman was leading with 22.6% versus 19.7% for Rusetskaya and 13.1% for Zhukovsky.

Adjusting these poll results to remove undecideds while keeping the proportions between the three major candidates constant, and assuming that the three other minor candidates (from the Communists of Russia, LDPR, and Fair Russia) would have polled exactly as they did in the actual elections – with the result that all of their numbers would add up to 100% – these polls translate to a predicted vote of 31.8% for Yuneman, 27.7 for Rusetskaya, and 18.4% for Zhukovsky.

But the FBK refused to take this sociology into account, sticking with its endorsement of Zhukovsky instead. It is unclear why they did that. As Volkov admitted himself, the FBK did no polling of its own, relying instead on “models” whose methodologies were never made transparent to justify their endorsement of Zhukovsky over Yuneman. Perhaps Navalny had a good relationship with Zhukovsky and wanted to do his friend a favor,  while others speculate of a deal between the FBK and the Communist Party.

Alternatively, perhaps Navaly and Volkov banally took exception to Yuneman as a pro-Russian, as opposed to pro-Western, opposition activist. Volkov even snidely implied that Yuneman is a sieg-heiling fascist, albeit making the caveat that this was “not so important” in the context of the Smart Vote.

While Yuneman is indeed an unapologetic Russian nationalism, his “Nazism” boils down to supporting the Donbass over the actual Nazis in the Azov battalion – not that the Ukrainophiles around Navalny would likely see it that way.

There happens to be circumstantial evidence for this interpretation in light of Smart Vote portraying the only other independent nationalist in these elections, Nadezhda Shalimova, as a regime candidate – an extraordinary claim (smear) that can be quickly browsing through her social media timeline, which is extremely critical of the “Rossiyanskaya Federatsiya” (a pejorative moniker for the Russian Federation that emphasizes its multicultural nature that is often used by Russian nationalists). Now just to be sure, Navalny & Co. have a perfect right to endorse anyone they want. But the Smart Vote wasn’t – supposedly – about supporting people they like and agree with, but about endorsing the people who were objectively likeliest to beat United Russia. In Chertanovo, that wasn’t Zhukovsky, not by a longshot.

Result? 29.5% for Rusetskaya (+1.8% relative to the adjusted polls – just within their 2% margin of error), 29.2% for Roman Yuneman (-2.6%), and 25.5% for Smart Vote-endorsed Zhukovsky (+7.1%).

What does this mean?

First – and we need to emphasize this – this means that Yuneman was correct that he was the most credible challenger to the United Russia candidate. Even though Smart Vote endorsed his direct rival, he still beat him by a handy margin.

Second, considering that a mere 84 votes separated Yuneman from Rusetskaya, this means that the single most unambiguous result of the Smart Vote was to deprive the opposition of a seat. Moreover, in Yuneman, this was an opposition that was truly independent, and not a member of one of the established opposition parties, such as Leonid Zyuganov, the grandson of the Communist Party warhorse who was shoehorned into power in my own home district with more than 60% of the vote.

Third, this suggests that the actual, electoral impact of Smart Vote was a rather modest 7% upwards shift in favor of the endorsed opposition candidate in the one district where we can compare pre-electoral polls with election results.

Since the Chertanovo elections featured two relatively competitive challengers to the United Russia candidate (both Yuneman and Zhukovsky would have handily beat Rusetskaya had the other not participated), we may posit that the Smart Vote effect was even stronger here than in less competitive districts, where only the stalwarts of one or another candidate would have bothered to turn up to vote, regardless of Smart Vote’s recommendation. To put it another way, Zhukovsky was “feeding” on a potential opposition electorate of Yuneman’s 31.8% (polls) plus the 15.8% that accrued to the three minor candidates (elections results). Consequently, Zhukovsky got 7.1%/47.6% ≈ 15% of the opposition electorate that was still in play.

In the interests of objectivity, I must also note that Smart Vote has been in action for more than a month now, so even the polls in August 23-26 would have already captured some of its impact – though presumably, interest in it peaked much closer to the election, so it probably wouldn’t understate the Smart Vote effect by much. Assuming that ~2/3 of interest and associated voting decisions came after that date – which is if anything a conservative estimate, as it is well known in political science that most voters make up their minds late – we may entertain a Smart Vote effect of 10% for Zhukovsky in Chertanovo. Repeating the calculation above, we get 10%/(47.6%+2.9%) ≈ 20%.

So instead of ascribing all 20/45 of the opposition seats the FBK claimed to have “won” in Moscow, I propose that a more “scientific” way of determining its real impact is to:

  1. Consider the 20 districts where the Smart Vote-endorsed candidate won.
  2. For each case, calculate the share of the vote that accrued neither to the United Russia candidate, nor to the Smart Vote endorsed candidate.
  3. Take 20% of that pool to get the percentage explained by the Smart Vote effect (denoted as “SV”).
  4. Consider that an FBK-enabled victory *if* the difference between the Smart Vote-endorsed candidate and the United Russia candidate is less than SV.

According to quick calculations, only the opposition victories in the following districts can be considered to be “accomplishments” of the Smart Vote effect, i.e. where SV < % winner – % “regime” candidate.

These are: #2, #3, #16, #19.*

Meanwhile, the Chertanovo region #30 is a direct example where the FBK’s intervention resulted in a United Russia victory, so by all rights it should be subtracted from their total.

Conclusion: Navalny’s much vaunted Smart Vote won the Moscow opposition a net total of three seats that it otherwise wouldn’t have.

Western journalists are certainly not going to write about this, because most of them are basically Navalny groupies, and this hardly reflects well on him (even if taking credit for things he didn’t accomplish is his forte). Furthermore, they certainly couldn’t care less that a pro-Russian nationalist was deprived of his victory – while they have no problems with nationalist as such, that only applies when it is channeled in an explicitly pro-Western or Ukrainian direction.

For their part, Russian nationalists would do well to internalize that the liberals are not their friends – while they’d be happy to use them as shock troops against Putin, they’ll be told, like the Moor, to go home as soon as they outlive their usefulness. Even during the Bolotnaya protests, the nationalists had a hard time convincing the liberals to include nationalists imprisoned under Article 282 “hate speech” laws as political prisoners. While the older generation of nationalists who participated in Bolotnaya and the Ukrainian events harbor few illusions about the liberals, this is a lesson that constantly needs to be relearned as younger cohorts enter their ranks.

* #15, #24, #44, and #45 (the one with the Chechen academic) were close but insufficient through my criteria, though it is certainly possible since the 20% is an estimate and was applied to the actual results, as opposed to early polls. But even counting those, 3+4-1(Chertanovo) = 6/45 is still not a particularly crushing performance. Certainly there were plenty of districts where the opposition won by >10% and for which the Smart Vote certainly can’t take any credit for.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. Please keep off topic posts to the current Open Thread.

    If you are new to my work, start here.

  2. Take home message (if there is one) then would be that liberals are no friends of anyone credible, so normal people must stay away from them. That was pretty obvious w/o Moscow elections.

    Another take home message is that venal fraud Navalny is no friend of anyone, including even disgusting liberals – his only concern is his personal pocket. That should have been pretty obvious years ago.

  3. Take home message (if there is one) then would be that liberals are no friends of anyone credible, so normal people must stay away from them. That was pretty obvious w/o Moscow elections.

    It’s so odd to see the cordon sanitare applied in the opposite direction.

    In thinking about municipalism, conservative activists are practically unheard of in most of the US, though NIMBYism is a recurring event. Openly organizing as even a mainstream conservative group attracts derision at best, and the authorities at worst. The “conservative” element in US municipal politics is mostly the “business lobby” that wants little to do with grassroots organizing, and everything to do with high-level “networking”.

    The typical reaction of the Right in urban Bluestan is to “sit back and grill”, or else only run token candidates. But what of the possibility of cynically backing one faction in municipal politics, and switching sides opportunisitically. Is that not what these liberals are doing?

  4. Belarusian Anon says

    Curious about your take on your friends at SiP implying some eleciton meddling by UR against Junman in their latest vid

  5. This pattern (apathetic city voters, failed opposition alliances) will likely repeat in the Hungarian local elections next month: the left opposition parties are running a joint candidate against Fidesz incumbent Budapest mayor István Tarlós and it’s being touted by the usual suspects as a “real chance” to take down Viktor Orbán.

    The left parties will probably win some extra seats on the city council, following the pattern in last year’s parliamentary elections where they won the majority of the city’s seats, but they’re not likely to get rid of Tarlós, who is highly popular. Gergely Karácsony, the joint left candidate, already miserably failed when he was nominated as the MSZP-Párbeszéd joint prime ministerial candidate last year (MSZP-Párbeszéd fell to third place behind Jobbik), and there’s also an independent left mayoral candidate who will probably nuke his chances of winning.

    People in Budapest are more leftist than Hungary as a whole, but they’re also far more apathetic and don’t bother voting. In the parliamentary elections last year, the left candidates who won in Budapest did so with smaller percentages of the vote than in 2014 (they only snuck in because in many cases there was only one left candidate per district). Conversely, Fidesz’s base in rural Hungary and the smaller cities always turns out to the polls; the only left-wing stronghold outside of Budapest is Szeged.

  6. jimmyriddle says

    These targeted campaigns rarely work. Most people vote according to habit. The sliver of the electorate reached by such campaigns is negligible.

    In the 2017 general election in Britain there was an attempt to unseat the Labour MP Kate Hoey.

    She represents a gentrifying district of inner South London that voted heavily to remain in the EU, but she is an Ulster Protestant and dyed in the wool Brexiteer, and has other unpopular (amongst lefty activists) opinions (eg pro selective schools, sympathetic to white farmers in Zim. & SA).

    It came to nothing – she increased her majority.

  7. Today self-proclaimed liberals are scum everywhere. In Russia, they are also openly traitorous – take money from the US government and globohomo-controlled “funds” promoting “democracy” (subservience to globohomo).

  8. @AK
    Did you go? I got enthused after seeing a commie agitation box near Voykovskaya subway by chance. The very first sentence amounted to 1488 REMOVE CHURKA.
    Back home it was the same calculation: seat-warmers for LDPR and ER, played-out old commie, some bratok, ecofag and a new shiny commie from not-KPRF as a bright spot.
    Is new RED MENACE coming?

  9. Why has he not been thrown in jail for life yet? In USA they used some technicality to jail Butina as a foreign agent. Navalny is clearly much more connected to the US government than Butina ever was to the Russian one. He is openly supporting a foreign hostile regime, so why is Russia so tolerant of this guy. One would never get away with equivalent actions in say USA or UK.

  10. If Navalny really is an opposition saboteur working for Putin and being finnanced by Sechin then he’s doing a bang up job.

  11. His work in discrediting NED zombies is evidently effective, so no need to jail him. Lehaim is the new Nemtsov, Nemtsov 2.0.

  12. Felix Keverich says

    This Uneman guy is quite a clown: conceded the race on election night, but now wants to fight the authorities, who “stole his victory”.

  13. Certainly it’s hard to explain the discrepancies in the electronic vote any other way.

  14. I’m amazed that the votes are counted so fast. California takes months to find enough ballots to get the Dem over the top.

  15. It has already been calculated that Navalny mobilised around 300 000 people in moscow.
    Downplay that all you wish, but that’s by several orders of magnitude more than any so called “nationalists” can muster.

    Additionally, it’s unclear why Navalny should have supported Yuneman over Zhukovskiy

    1. Yuneman suspiciously fund raised 8 million rubles in 3 months. Not even well-known and popular political organisations can manage that. How did someone completely unknown do it?
    2. Zhukovsky is an old ally, who proved he can be trusted. Yuneman popped out of nowhere . In a time when the authorities are very hostile, it’s only logical to play it safe.

    Rather the question should be posed to both candidates why they didn’t come to an agreement and also to those who supported the (unreliable) online voting.

  16. It has already been calculated that Navalny mobilised around 300 000 people in moscow.

    Calculated by whom?

    According to my methodology, which is open (unlike yours), Navalny swung the votes of about 20% of the opposition that wasn’t going to vote for the main opposition candidate.

    So on average, probably around 5% of the total vote.

    7.3 million registered voters in Moscow * 22% turnout * 5% swing = 80,000. Not 300,000.

    Downplay that all you wish, but that’s by several orders of magnitude more than any so called “nationalists” can muster.

    Unlike the Westernist opposition, we don’t have the liberal media elites, the offshore Oligarchate, and Gosdep shilling for us. Nor do we have administrative resources like United Russia does.

    Nonetheless, in the one district where we ran a serious campaign, we beat your pocket commie and almost beat the UR candidate (would have beaten her if not for the votes from electronic voting and the lunatic asylum).

    How did someone completely unknown do it?

    By running a modern and relevant campaign. Just compare Yuneman’s feed to Zhukovsky’s (latter – exclusively populated by calls to go out and protest against the regime, nothing about local issues).

    Zhukovsky is an old ally, who proved he can be trusted. Yuneman popped out of nowhere .

    Good to know you agree that Navalny/Volkov are nepotists.

    Rather the question should be posed to both candidates why they didn’t come to an agreement and also to those who supported the (unreliable) online voting.

    Yuneman attempted to reach out to both the FBK and Zhukovsky. He was rebuffed, with Volkov alternately implying that he was either a Kremlin candidate and/or a Neo-Nazi, and Zhukovsky posting fake polls stamped with VCIOM’s trademark.

  17. Calculated by whom?

    Read it here

    we don’t have the liberal media elites, the offshore Oligarchate, and Gosdep shilling for us

    I guess, your ideas just aren’t popular in the 21st century. Maybe they belong in a time period 200 years earlier.

  18. Но можно сравнить типичные результат например кандидатов КПРФ – получивших и неполучивших поддержку УГ. И чтобы уменьшить влияние отдельных нестандартных округов, буду считать не через среднее арифметическое, а через медиану

    LOL, what a joke. You are comparing KPRF results in 2014 (at the peak of the Putin administration’s popularity boom from Crimea) to 2019 (5 years later and after an unpopular pensions reform).

    I guess, your ideas just aren’t popular in the 21st century. Maybe they belong in a time period 200 years earlier.

    The success of Orban in Hungary, PiS in Poland, and even Zeman in Czechia suggests that Russia will drift in a nationalist direction post-Putinism.

  19. As far as I can tell, Navalny is either a greedy moron, or a Kremlin stooge, or both.

  20. I guess, your ideas just aren’t popular in the 21st century.

    Текущий год

    Congratulations on making the worst argument of liberals.

    The truth is timeless, and liberalism is degenerate.

    Liberals have systemically excluded the Right from the culture industry, and scream bloody murder about anyone proposing to restore balance in the media and the universities.

    Everything you touch is ruined, you turn nations into slums, women into whores and pay for it all via the taxes of responsible conservatives.

  21. Ted Cruz supporters back in 2015-16 used to claim that “Trump was a Clinton plant”, and liberals routinely claim that Trumps campaign and tenure in office is just a grifting scheme.

  22. Judging by the reaction of cackling hyena to Trump victory, he is not a Clinton plant. Liberal are liars in everything, including this. As far as grifting schemes go, Trump presidency is less of that than Obama, Bush Jr, or Clinton presidency. So, compared to other mega-thieves, he is relatively honest. Frankly, if NYT or WaPo says that 2×2=4, I’d start doubting even this.