Lyndon has been writing more about Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and the speculation over whether he will – indeed, whether he can – run for a seat on the State Duma. Lyndon’s opinion is that he won’t be allowed to run, but hopes that he does:
If they [the authorities] use clumsy enough methods (and based on the Russian authorities’ track record on dealing with situations like this, they probably will), all they’ll do is cement Khodorkovsky’s reputation as a modern-day dissident and a political prisoner. For this reason, the cynic in me thinks that he should go ahead and start campaigning – it will be good for his image in the long run. And the idealist in me also thinks he should do it, to exercise his rights as a citizen and to continue to bring attention to the inanity of his imprisonment. Along with many other Russia-watchers and Russians, I eagerly await further developments in this story.
I’d certainly agree that the authorities will pull out all the stops in an effort to prevent Khodorkovsky from running – if he were to win, the result would send shock waves through Russian politics, and if he were to lose in a clearly crooked election, the Kremlin would be humiliated in the eyes of the Russian public and the world. On the other hand, Khodorkovsky has much at stake, too – what if he discovers he has no public support? Leonid Radzikhovsky, writing in Ezhednevny Zhurnal (translated by Lyndon) sets out exactly what is at stake, for Putin and for Khodorkovsky:
Well, and the most important thing: this would be not just a vote on the "Khodorkovsky question," but on the "Putin question," it would to some extent show the real feelings of people toward the authorities and to their most implacable foe. If Khodorkovsky (as many are certain) were to receive an insignificant percentage of votes, this would become for him both a personal drama (his illusions about the people would be destroyed) and a sobering moment. But if he were to come close to winning or actually make it into the Duma, then that would be a small political earthquake, and perhaps a portent of larger tremors.
Finally a couple of quick predictions. Now, I’m the first to admit that I know virtually nothing of Russian electoral law, so consider the following speculation about as reliable the predictions you’d get from reading tea leaves:
- I wonder if there is some clause that says that politicians who want to stand for the Duma must register their candidacy in person. Khodorkovsky would have problems fulfilling such a criteria, being currently under lock and key. If not this particular method, then I’d expect something similar.
- No matter what they throw at Khodorkovsky, I think he’ll come out of this smelling of roses.
Everything I’ve seen suggests that there’s precedent for people launching campaigns from within a pre-trial detention facility, with the paperwork handled by authorized representatives. The only thing I’ve seen mentioned as a potential procedural stumbling-block is the requirement to declare income and assets. It would be really interesting if they let it come to an actual election involving MBK, but I don’t think the boys in the Kremlin want to take that risk.