Here’s the main reason why Aleksei Navalny has become such a potent political force and a threat to the Kremlin: his splashy exposés documenting corruption and ostentatious spending by government officials, usually accompanied by his acerbic wit.
But there’s another, equally potent reason: his Smart Voting campaign, an effort that aims to loosen the chokehold the Kremlin-allied United Russia political party has on elected legislatures nationwide.
And that’s why, with just weeks to go before nationwide elections to choose a new lower house of parliament, authorities have stepped up a crackdown on anything connected to Smart Voting.
“They are definitely fighting against Smart Voting,” Abbas Gallyamov, a Moscow-based political analyst, told Current Time, the Russian-language network run by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA.
“We can’t forget that Smart Voting is the most dangerous of all of Navalny’s projects, at least at the present moment,” he said.
Smart Voting Goes High-Tech
The September 17-19 elections are crucial not only for cementing United Russia’s grip on the country’s political life. They’re also key to any constitutional maneuvering that the Kremlin might undertake in the run-up to the 2024 presidential election, when President Vladimir Putin may seek a fifth term.
The problem for the Kremlin is that, at least since last year, polling for United Russia has been at historic lows.
The opposition, headed by Navalny, has shown unprecedented effectiveness — using the Smart Voting tactic to secure victories for hundreds of opposition candidates in local elections across the country in 2018, 2019, and 2020.
In past years, the effort was more of a traditional word-of-mouth and public-relations campaign promoted by Navalny and his allies through their networks.
This year, with the national Duma elections looming, Smart Voting has gone high-tech, with a downloadable app launched on August 24 that identifies in every single race the candidate most likely to defeat…