Magazine article Russian Life

Navalny's near Miss

Magazine article Russian Life

Navalny's near Miss

Article excerpt

ALEXEI NAVALNY, THE opposition politician, the person whose name President Putin never utters, nearly became mayor of Moscow. Well, in any event, he nearly passed to the second round of voting against incumbent Sergei Sobyanin. He fell just 1.7 percent short, while independent observers estimated that dishonest voting practices delivered 3-4 percent of votes to Sobyanin.

Navalny's election campaign may well go into the history books of PR, advertising and political activism. And just in the history books more generally. For Navalny was hemmed in on all sides. He was not allowed to advertise on Moscow city billboards. All the transport companies refused to work with him, as did the television and radio channels. And yet he managed to increase in popularity over the course of July and August--vacation months in the capital.

Banners with Navalny's name appeared on apartment building balconies, and the poor dvorniki were ordered to cut them down, dangling themselves from the upper stories of their buildings.

Lots of people stuck Navalny's campaign stickers on their cars, bags, coats and computers. Cars bearing the stickers had their windows bashed in or their tires slashed, yet people kept pasting on the stickers nonetheless.

It was all unbelievably interesting, lively and cheering, but for the fact that Navalny was being threatened with a prison term. Hundreds of young kids did not leave the Navalny campaign headquarters for days at a time, laboring away at all sorts of new means of agitation--on the internet and even, something completely unusual for Navalny, offline.

I worked with the campaign, setting up a teachers' "Circle" to discuss education issues on film with the candidate. Not a single teacher refused to take part, while in other professional Circles people suddenly got "sick" or simply honestly said they were afraid, or that their bosses would not allow it. The teachers arrived and spoke eloquently (bit.ly/navalnyeduc).

Yet I have to say that what impressed me most about the entire campaign was Navalny's professionalism. When we were taping the discussion with teachers, the campaign was at its peak of activity. Navalny was going flat out. After several meetings with voters, he appeared in an evening televised debate, then late at night he received the list I had compiled for him about the problems in Moscow education. At 7:30 the next morning he was in the studio, taping a discussion with doctors, then an hour and a half later he met with me to discussion my summary. …

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