Civil Society Awakens? The Systemic and Non-Systemic Opposition in the Russian Federation: National and Regional Dimensions
This study provides an analysis of systemic opposition in Russia and its regions. The main aim of the chapter is to examine the opposition from a new perspective which sees it not as an alternative to, but as an integral part of the system and even as a support element of the regime. We call the opposition systemic not because it does not have any ideas about how to change the system. In terms of ideology almost any opposition can be pretty anti-systemic. In other words ideological division is not a valid reason to differentiate the systemic opposition from the non-systemic opposition. The systemic opposition in contrast to the non-systemic opposition, is accommodated within the existing system. The opposition itself is a very controversial term and classic “power – opposition” divide in the Russia’s regime is a misleading analytical framework. In fact all of the registered parties are part of one political system with their roles and functions giving this system extra stability. In my opinion they should be considered as non-dominant actors with a limited access to power. I suppose that the analysis of opposition in Russia is more relevant in terms of non-dominant systemic actors while the notion of opposition may be senseless. All major parties have their relations with the authorities and try to bargain for more favourable conditions and positions in power. Rational strategy prevails for all non-dominant actors who combine oppositional electoral behaviour with political opportunism and collaborationism. The political system as a whole remains stable and reproductive since it allows the conversion of public discontent into the consolidation of political actors.
In Chapter 7, Alexander Kynev analyzes the dynamics of electoral support for the leading opposition parties in Russia. The study maps regional support for the systemic opposition and United Russia in the December 2011 elections to the State Duma, and the regional elections of 2012 and 2013. In addition, the chapter provides a detailed account of new party and election laws which were enacted in the wake of the mass protests in December 2011 and it outlines the various methods employed by United Russia to maintain its control over regional assemblies and executives. Kynev concludes that many of the new party and electoral laws were adopted in a panic as short term fixes, without much thought about their long term consequences. Some of these reforms, such as changes to the laws governing the registration of parties, the increase in the percentage of deputies elected in single member districts, which were aimed at fragmenting and weakening the system opposition, have backfired, allowing opposition parties and candidates to win seats in regional assemblies and take control of city administrations. Moreover, the liberalization of party rules has led to the creation of scores of new parties, many of which have managed to escape the Kremlin’s control. The creation of these new parties has ended up splitting the votes of the systemic opposition and United Russia.