Russian communists in Moscow on Friday laid flowers on the granite tombstones of dozens of top NKVD officers, the Soviet secret police who killed, tortured and imprisoned millions during the purge of Joseph Stalin.
“We must celebrate, honor and remember these people,” said four-time communist politician Nina Ostanina, referring to the officers, not the victims, including those who arranged the purge and personally executed ‘people’s enemies’.
Ostanina, who is under investigation after her son Daniil pleaded guilty in 2010 to stabbing his business partner 42 times, is taking part in the September 19 parliamentary vote.
She is one of the candidates in the upcoming election endorsed by a political force that is light years away from the current agenda of the Communist Party and idols from the past.
The imprisoned opposition leader Alexey Navalny has a plan to use the necessary means to vote against the candidates of the United Russia, the ruling pro-Kremlin attitude which has 334 seats in the State Duma of 450, the lower house of parliament.
Navalny is serving a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence after recovering from a nerve agent poisoning last year, which he blamed the Kremlin for. The Russian state bans its Fund to fight corruption as an ‘extremist’ group in June. The group’s leaders have fled Russia, and most of its activists are banned from running.
But the fund has developed Smart Voting, a back-and-forth gimmick using a mobile app and online tools, which Navalny says its sympathy would help select about 1,300 individual candidates opposed to the United Russia.
Each candidate is selected after a careful examination, his supporters say.
“Putin has criminalized virtually any opposition industry and declared it ‘extremist’. Tens of thousands of people are banned from participating in elections of any kind. All the strong candidates are being cut out of the current vote of the Duma, ”Navalny said from prison in late August, explaining why Russians should use Smart Voting.
Navalny assistant Leonid Volkiv said in an online video on Wednesday that “millions of people in Russia hate the United States”. The video appears along with a list of candidates who, according to him, have the best chance of defeating the hopeful people of the United Russia – and most were from the Communist Party.
The Smart Voting system was designed in 2019 and has achieved success. In last year’s regional elections, Navalny claims, United Russia lost its majority in three Russian cities due to smart voting.
But the app was supposed to promote pro-Navalny candidates — and feels very ambivalent when it comes to endorsing aspiring politicians with the ‘systemic opposition’, a handful of parties whose presence in the Duma has an illusion of political create majority.
‘It’s a very dual [political] campaign manager Vitali Shkliarov, who worked on Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders ‘campaigns in the United States, promoted pro-Navalny candidates in Russia and was jailed and tortured in neighboring Belarus last year after collaborating with’ an opposition had presidential hope.
“Smart voting was considered a good tool, but in political reality we do not live in its execution,” Shkliarov told Al Jazeera.
Many of the candidates endorsed by Smart Voting are communists, the largest political force opposed to the Kremlin – albeit mostly nominal.
The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) has largely supported most of the initiatives of Russian President Vladimir Putin, such as raising the retirement age, abolishing low benefits for the elderly and annexing Crimea. 2014.
“They are completely sold out, I do not vote for them anymore. In fact, I am disgusted with what they have done in recent years with all these people to Stalin and service to Putin, “said Alevtina Yevtushenkova, 43, a nurse in the Lyubertsy suburb of Moscow, an ardent communist supporter in the 2000s. , told Al Jazeera.
Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov praised Stalin and reversed the 1956 decision by his Soviet predecessors to condemn the leader’s purification and cult of personality.
The Communists have the second largest bloc in the State Duma with 450 seats, with 43 seats. Zyuganov has been at a distant second in every presidential vote since 1996.
The only Liberal Democratic party allowed to participate in the parliamentary vote is Yabloko (Apple), a veteran group that kicked Navalny out in 2008 for its nationalist views and participation in far-right gatherings.
Navalny’s decision to select the Communists and other ‘systemic’ opposition candidates as the lesser of the two evils polarized Kremlin critics.
‘Even for the most rational reasons, I can not cast my vote for the CPRF which stands for sovok [a derogatory term for all things Soviet] and Stalin, ”political activist Andrey Pivovarov said in a statement.
And even some who vote for Smart vote consider it flawed.
‘In a smart vote, there is one logical imperfection – it encourages one to vote for any party other than the United Russia. But I think many candidates of the [nationalist] “LDPR and communist parties are also United Russia,” Maxim Shevchenko, a popular television personality and leader of the Party of Freedom and Justice, told the Daily Storm newspaper.
Russian courts have blocked the Smart Voting website as ‘extremist’ and ordered Google and Yandex, Russia’s largest search engine, not to display the ‘Smart Voting’ search results.
Police officers allegedly visited the office of Google’s Russian subsidiary on Monday to enforce the order.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said days earlier that the app’s developers were “connected to the Pentagon in some way”.
Western observers slammed the Kremlin’s witch-hunt and “manic” paranoia over opposition.
“In Russia, the Kremlin is using full force to eliminate all possible opposition. I agree that Russia does not have to imitate the West, but this manic fight against legal opposition is shameful, “Ivar Dale, a senior policy adviser to the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, a real watchdog, told Al Jazeera .
It also looks like the Kremlin has found a more cunning way to ban smart voting.
In July, Woolintertrade, a wool retailer in the southwestern part of Stavropol, registered a Smart Voting brand and a logo that looks like the app’s icon.
The ‘illegal’ use of the fund can therefore be punishable by up to six years in prison, and all printed material with it can be confiscated and destroyed.
Meanwhile, Navalny is being demonized on pro-Kremlin television networks, with only 14 percent of Russians approving of what he and his Fund to Fight Corruption are doing, while 62 ‘disapprove’, according to the July poll by the Levada Center pollster.