Europe

Aleksei Navalny is the contender 6-10-17

Source: "The contender"       

All taken directly from article.

The campaign for Russia’s presidential election in 2018 has not yet begun. Once it does, Aleksei Navalny is unlikely to get on the ballot. A trumped-up conviction for embezzlement in 2013, though dismissed by the European Court of Human Rights, bars him from being registered. If that was not enough to put him off, he has already suffered a campaign of intimidation. On April 27th thugs threw green antiseptic mixed with acid in his face.

Over the past few months Mr Navalny has managed to mobilise volunteers, mostly through social media. His team boast they have opened 77 campaign headquarters in 65 regions. Such speed has caught the Kremlin by surprise. On March 26 2017 Mr Navalny brought thousands of people onto the streets in 90 Russian cities to protest against corruption. For now the government is trying to avoid further escalation. Physical attacks have mostly stopped. In the past Mr Navalny was pelted with eggs and tomatoes in nearly every town he visited. The aim was not simply to deter him from leaving home, but also to make him seem unpopular. The tactic failed. The protests in March were the largest since people took en masse to the streets 2011. This suggests that Mr Putin’s efforts to make voters forget about the national malaise by rallying them around the flag are not working as well as he hoped. Even after he annexed Crimea and started a war in Ukraine, Russians are still gloomy.

The political mood has changed over the past six years. The protests in 2011 were good-natured, mostly in Moscow, led by journalists and artists and lacked political leadership. Now the protest is angrier, geographically broader and involves younger people, many of them teenagers. Their main grievance is that the government offers them no appealing vision of the future. Protesters complain of the injustice, hypocrisy and cynicism of daily life. “Corruption steals our future” is their slogan. The new generation of protesters are hard for the Kremlin to win over. They eschew television in favour of YouTube videos and social media. Here, Mr Navalny has a clear advantage. He is banned from state television, but what of it? He rejects its output as propaganda and offers a digital alternative. His investigative film about the castles and yachts amassed by Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s prime minister, has been viewed over 22m times. Even though he rarely appears on television, most Russians recognise Mr Navalny. For now, they largely disapprove of him, having been told by their government that he is a criminal. But this could change: in the most recent parliamentary elections 52% of Russians did not vote. If even a quarter of these abstainers chose to believe Navalny’s message that Russians can live better, the political landscape would shift dramatically