Lyosha 9%

In Moscow’s mayoral election, 8.7% of the city’s voters went to the polls and supported Alexei Navalny, just over 630,000 people out of roughly 7.25 million eligible voters. Another way of putting it is that 91.3% of Moscow’s voters rejected Navalny, either by staying home or actually voting for somebody else.

So Navalny is Lyosha 9%.

Having seen that there were only 630,000 Muscovites willing to support Navalny has two devastating implications for his protest movement. First, it shows that the number of protesters he brought to the streets, never more than 100,000, was a tiny fraction of those who shared his views in Moscow. On the other hand, It also shows that Navalny’s promise to put 1 million supporters on the streets was always pure poppycock.

As we previously reported, Navalny’s pre-election polling showed that his negatives were significantly higher than his positives (more respondents said they definitely would not vote for him than said they would do so), and his post-election polling showed that his campaign did not have any affect at all on either public support for Vladimir Putin or for a national campaign by Navalny.

Pre-election polling had also clearly shown that only ten percent of all Moscow voters supported Navalny at most.  His 8.7% tally on election day was perfectly consistent with the polling, with a small fraction of his active supporters choosing to stay at home on election day in a predictable manner (in fact, but for a frenzied last-minute get-out-the-vote push by Navalny’s forces, the number would have been a bit higher).

Navalny’s bid for Moscow mayor ended in disastrous failure, just as we predicted prior to the election. It was confirmed that Navalny does not even have double-digit support within his own bastion of strength, Moscow, and it was confirmed that he simply does not exist as a national politician.  On the other hand. Navalny’s participation in the race permitted the Kremlin to fully legitimize the Moscow administration it has hand-picked, and show that it is not afraid of meeting Navalny on the electoral battlefield.  This works to legitimize Navalny’s conviction as well.

In short, Navalny played right into the Kremlin’s hands and walked into an electoral meat grinder, ending for all practical purposes his ability to claim Russia has a significant opposition movement and he leads it.  The only question now is whether Lyosha 9% will cling to power the same way Lenin did after he heads to prison, causing the so-called movement to degenerate further into disarray, or whether he will act like a patriot and statesman and pass the baton to someone who may fare better.

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Comparing Levada to Reality on Moscow Mayor Poll

In its poll published right before the election for Moscow Mayor (Russian-language link), the country’s most-respected pollster Levada reported that 52% of Moscow voters had told it they planned to come out on election day and cast their ballot (this number was clearly hedged, however, since more than half of it was comprised by people who said it was only “very likely” that they’d vote, not sure).

Moscow has roughly 7.25 million eligible voters. Thus, Levada was indicating that up to  3.77 million Muscovites might be at the polls on election day.  Of those, Levada reported that 18% would vote for Alexei Navalny, or in other words that Navalny would collect about 678,600 votes.  By contrast, Levada reported, 58% would support incumbent Sergei Sobyanin, meaning the latter would rake in about 2,186,600 votes.  Levada’s data overstated the number of votes Navalny would get on election day (and the same for Sobyanin).

On election day, nauseatingly huge numbers of Muscovites stayed at home, far more than Levada’s data imagined could occur. This reduced the number of votes collected by all candidates, but the incumbent was affected most dramatically.

Navalny actually got only 632,697 votes for mayor, 45,903 (or 7%) less than Levada had predicted.  But Sobyanin suffered far more from the weak turnout, actually getting only 1,193,178 votes, roughly a stunning 992,822 (or 45%) less than Levada had predicted.  Sobyanin ended up with just over 51% of the total and Navalny with just over 27% because Navalny brought a larger percentage of his supporters to the polls than Sobyanin did.  It’s telling that Sobyanin could take this massive hit and still crush Navalny by such a wide margin.

Only 2,286,972 valid ballots were received on election day, roughly 1.5 million less than Levada’s data had shown there might be.  In other words, only 31% of Moscow voters actually cast ballots on election day, vastly fewer than Levada had suggested might do so.

So Levada was almost exactly right about the number of votes Navalny would get on election day, but it vastly overestimated the number of votes that would be cast and it failed to recognize that the vast majority of voters who would stay at home would be Sobyanin voters.  Levada said Navalny would get a fifth of half of the Moscow electorate to support him, but he ended up with less than third of less than a third of all Moscow voters supporting him.  However, Levada never asked the large group of potential voters who said they were very likely to vote but not sure who they planned to vote for. Hence, it’s not possible to claim that Levada was “wrong” about turnout. They clearly said the turnout figure was not guarantied, and they did not attempt to project what would happen if voters were overestimated their probability of going to the polls.

The low turnout for Sobyanin  was eminently predictable, however.   Given that Levada had predicted that Navalny, Sobyanin’s closest competitor, would lose in a massive forty-point landslide of over 1.5 million votes, many Sobyanin supporters could quite foreseeably have decided there was no need to bother voting.   Levada’s polling was actually quite helpful to Navalny, in other words, because it strongly encouraged Sobyanin to be overconfident and, like the famous hare who raced the tortoise, to slack off on his efforts to bring out the vote.

On the other hand, the outcome was still pretty shocking.  Given the sensational fact that Navalny had just been convicted of serious criminal charges and sentenced to prison for five years, given that this was the first “Western-style” election in Russia’s history, and given that Navalny had repeatedly said that his own fate and that of the country were riding on it, one might have expected turnout to exceed Levada’s prediction rather than falling vastly short of it.

When the dust had settled,  Sobyanin had defeated Navalny by “only” 24 points instead of 40 and by “only” half a million votes rather than a million and a half.  His margin was half what it could have been in terms or percentages, a third what it could have been in terms of votes numbers.  Had turnout been even lower, say about half what it actually was, Navalny might well have been elected Mayor. If it had been a quarter of what it actually was, Navalny might have won in a landslide.  For that matter, had only Navalny’s supporters gone to the polls, Sobyanin wouldn’t have received any votes at all!

For some contrast, in the last mayoral election in New York City the incumbent Michael Bloomberg also won, but defeated his rival by only 50,000 votes and just five points.  Sobyanin’s crushing margin of victory over Navalny was five times bigger than Bloomberg’s (ten times bigger if looking at number of votes in the margin rather than points), and Bloomberg was one of New York’s most well-respected mayors ever. Bloomberg got only 50.6% of the votes, a lower share than Sobyanin collected, and Sobyanin raked in more than twice as many votes as Bloomberg received.

The End of Navalny

Alexei NavalnyAn absolutely brutal new poll from Levada, Russia’s most trusted pollster, reveals horrific failure on the part of Alexei Navalny.

Following the saga of Navalny’s conviction, release and rejection at the polls in Moscow, Levada reports (Russian-language link) that if a presidential election were held this weekend Vladimir Putin would have twenty-five percent more support (that is seven more points) than he had before Navalny launched his campaign.

Just. Ouch.

Levada also reports that Putin’s “Party of Crooks and Thieves” (as Navalny has called it), United Russia, would have twenty percent more support (that is, five more points) than before Navalny’s campaign.

But wait, it gets worse.

Navalny’s personal numbers, and those of his party “People’s Alliance,” show absolutely no traction whatsoever. He hasn’t even cracked the 1.5% barrier.

Mind you, Russia is now headed for a double-dip recession. It hasn’t seen quarterly GDP growth rise in more than a year and half, and it has never fully recovered from the disastrous economic collapse of 2009.  Yet even in this climate, Navalny’s opposition movement can make no headway at all.  In its bastion of strength, Moscow, Navalny couldn’t even motivate half of the residents to go to the polls or even as much as 10% of them to support his alternative vision for Russia.

And now, of course, Navalny is headed to prison for five years, and he has not identified any successor who will pick up his flag and carry on while he is in prison.  That may well be for the best, though, because given the extent of his failure the Russian opposition is likely much better off starting with a clean slate.

Shocking Western Misreporting of Moscow Mayoral Election Results

Yesterday, the votes were counted in the first Moscow mayoral election in a decade.

Incumbent Sergei Sobyanin was reelected with 51.37% of the vote (roughly 1.2 million votes).  The runner-up was Alexei Navalny, who finished a whopping 24.13 points behind Sobyanin (collecting roughly 630,000 votes), who in turn nearly doubled Navalny’s vote total.  It was an absolute blowout, and Echo of Moscow radio declared it the cleanest Russian election in history so the issue of cheating by Sobyanin was off the table.

The only bright spot for Navalny was that just days before the election the Levada polling agency had pegged his support at 18%.  He got roughly the same number of votes as Levada predicted, but his share of the total was much larger because, shockingly, Sobyanin did a disgraceful job of getting his voters to the polling place.  Levada had shown Sobyanin with a dominant 60% share of the vote, but apparently overconfident and lazy Sobyanin’s forces sat back and let a big chunk of their support sit out the election.  But Navalny still ended up more than 30,000 votes short of forcing Sobyanin into a runoff.

And this bright spot was more than overshadowed by the astounding fact that two-thirds of Moscow voters (there are roughly 7.25 million of them) did likewise, simply ignoring what Navalny had claimed was the most important election in Russian history.  The world got the clear message that Russians simply don’t care about reform or change even as Putin pushes the Russian economy into a double-dip recession.  It was one of the most depressing moments of recent Russian history.  Moreover, as we previously reported Levada’s polling revealed the astounding fact that far more Muscovites said the would never, ever vote for Navalny than said they might do so. His negatives were far higher than his support. The notion that, as Navalny had repeatedly claimed, Moscow stood behind him and would show it given a fair chance, was absolutely blown to smithereens.

The utterly depressing voter turnout was made worse by absolutely godawful reporting from much of the Western press.

The Financial Times called Sobyanin’s win “narrow” and Fox News called it “close.” Narrow? Close? The actual fact was that Sobyanin won in a massive landslide, collecting twice as many votes as his nearest rival.  Granted, Sobyanin was “close” to being forced into a second-round runoff with Navalny, but in such a runoff election he would have utterly crushed Navalny, not least because of the wake-up call about mobilizing his support.

The headline on the article from the New York Times was that Navalny “says he can force  runoff.”  The entire lead paragraph is devoted to libelous speculation that the result might have been rigged simply because Navalny, who never reached 20% in the pre-election polls, did not win.  Navalny’s only “evidence” of fraud was the his own campaign’s exit polls showed him getting 7 points more support than he was allocated and Sobyanin five points less.  The NYT falsely claims that Navalny “defied expectations” when in fact he did no such thing. Expectations were defied, and brutally disappointed, by the voters of Moscow who sat home in droves, clearly showing they could not care less who rules Moscow.  There is zero evidence that Navalny got significantly more people to vote for him than pre-election polls indicated would do so.

But the most disgraceful reporting of all came from the Guardian in a perfectly wretched piece of garbage from Alex Luhn.  We’re not surprised by this, since the Guardian is the publisher of Miriam Elder, one of the worst Russia correspondents in the history of journalism.  The Guardian claimed that Vladimir Putin, who wasn’t even a candidate in the race, had got his “nose bloodied” by Navalny. It touted Navalny’s statement that the results had been falsified while totally ignoring the fact that nearly every Russian source said that the poll was mostly clean, and likewise ignoring the fact that the Kremlin had actively assisted Navalny in getting on the ballot in the first place. It completely ignore the pathetic level of voter turnout, which meant that in the end a mere 7.5% of all Moscow voters had gone to the polls to support Navalny.  And it ignored the fact that everywhere across the country Putin’s party of power prevailed, except in Ekaterinburg where for a second time the elected mayor is an opposition figure, clearly showing that it is possible for the right opposition candidate to prevail. Interestingly, the opposition candidate in E-burg did not come close to getting a majority but will take office anyway, because there is no requirement of getting a majority in E-burg.  So the standard Navalny wants to impose in Moscow would block the opposition victory in E-burg.

The type of repulsive, nauseating journalistic cheerleading engaged in by the Guardian and other so-called journalists who actively rooted for Navalny, urging him on and ignoring Navalny’s egregious faults (as we previously reported, AFP’s Maria Antonova was a noteworthy exception, highlighting Navalny’s blatant racism), hardly sets the right standard for Russian journalists to emulate and does the opposition movement no favors.  Navalny is a very weak candidate and a very weak leader, who has clearly shown he can’t motivate large number of Russians to join him in his crusade against Putin.  Better reporting might have encouraged a better candidate to come forward.  The opposition has instead squandered its best chance to actually influence politics in Russian capital.

For the third time, Navalny has failed to alter the results of a Russian election as he promised. First Navalny promised he would force a second Duma vote, and it didn’t happen. Then he swore he’d force Putin into a second presidential vote, but that didn’t happen either. And now his promise of actually winning the Moscow mayoral ballot, or at least forcing the incumbent into a runoff, has exploded in his face as well.

Three strikes and you’re out, Mr. Navalny.

Looming Disaster for Alexei Navalny

The latest poll from Levada, Russia’s most trustworthy pollster, on the Moscow mayoral election came out on September 1 (Russian-language link). The results are devastatingly bad for Alexei Navalny.

Levada predicts that incumbent Mayor Sergei Sobyanin will win in a landslide. Levada’s data indicate that Sobyanin will finish with nearly 60% of the vote, three times more than Navalny will receive.  Not only won’t Navalny win, he won’t come close to even forcing Sobyanin into a runoff.

While Levada indicates that Navalny will collect 18% of the vote, it shows that this only amounts to 10% of all Moscow voters (Levada indicates that only about 60% of voters will go to the polls at most, and that only 20% of voters are paying close attention to the race), and Navalny’s negatives are much higher than his positives:  a whopping 23% of respondents say Navalny is the one candidate they definitely would not vote for.  Navalny’s negatives are roughly 50% higher than any other candidate in the race.

Navalny’s puny total of 18% is trailed closely by the Communist candidate, who is garnering 12% support.

But the worst news of all for Navalny is that the Moscow mayoral election may well be the fairest in all of Russian history, and it will be virtually impossible to attack it as being unfair.  The only gripe Navalny could have would be his somewhat restricted access to TV, but the Kremlin did allow him to participate in debates that were televised citywide and Navalny himself has touted his mastery of the Internet, to which the vast majority of Moscow voters have access.

Putin launched a brutal tirade against Navalny on state TV, clearly seeking to rub salt in Navalny’s wounds and jeer at him, as he did at Khodorkovsky. It’s doubtful Putin has the courage, however, to let Navalny answer him on the same program as basic fairness would dictate.

This election is shaping up to strike a fatal blow to Navalny.  It appears that he will be exposed as extremely weak even his his greatest bastion of strength, Moscow, and that his claim to any national power base is totally illusory. When he’s packed off to jail for many years after the election, it will be impossible for him to claim his imprisonment is politically motivated. “Why should the Kremlin need to jail someone who has no chance of winning power?” it will argue.

Navalny Steps on a Rake

rake-take_the-simpsons_951Writing in the Moscow Times, columnist Georgy Bovt observes:  “Navalny has transformed the Moscow mayoral race into more than just a referendum on the best ways to cope with the city’s numerous problems. It has become a vote of confidence in the Kremlin and Putin.” Indeed, Navalny’s campaign slogan is:  “Change Russia. Start with Moscow.

Bovt’s comment highlights that Navalny’s campaign is a serious mistake, and will backfire badly in three important ways.

First, as Georgy notes, he’ll lose badly in his so-called bastion of strength, giving the Kremlin the right to argue he wasn’t jailed for political reasons (why should it fear someone so weak?).

Second, by ignoring the plight of the Moscow voters, whose city is far from perfect, asking them to sacrifice their own interests in order to lash out at Putin, he only alienates them.

Finally, Navalny also harms his image in the West. His barbaric, racist statements about non-Slavs in Moscow go a long way to discrediting him as liberal seeking to reverse Putin’s policies.  He’ll also be discredited there, of course, when his low level of support in his base of operations is exposed by the election.

These are just the latest in a long line of critical miscalculations by Navalny. Yet with all his mistakes he’s still far more successful than any other opposition leader, which is a sad commentary on the state of the opposition. Soon, he’ll be in jail and largely forgotten.

The File on Mr. Navalny

111205_Navalny

We find ourselves in an odd position these days, as Alexei Navalny vies for the mayoralty of Moscow.  Like Yevgenia Chirikova and other opposition figures, we endorsed Navalny for mayor, but not because he’s a good candidate or qualified for the job and not because we actually want him to be mayor. He’s not a good candidate, and he’s not qualified and we don’t want him to govern.  Our endorsements come because he’s the lesser of many evils in the race, including but not limited to a Putin toady and an avowed Communist, and because it will drive Putin right out of his mind to see Navalny win (or even be competitive).

Don’t get us wrong, Navalny has many good points.  He’s recently come out against the some elements of Russia’s homosexual crackdown, a dangerous thing for him to do politically, and his reporting on Russian corruption has been second to none.  He’s risking his freedom and maybe life to openly challenge Putin; from Starovoitova to Estemirova, we’ve seen what happens to such critics, they get shot and killed.  And he’s created the most effective political brand we’ve yet seen in the Putin opposition, and put the most bodies on the street to show contempt.

But there are many signs that Navalny is just Putin Lite, that the bad outweighs the good, and we think because Putin’s opponents are so desperate for some kind of good news that they’re reluctant to tell the full story on Navalny we’re seeing important parts of the full story on Navalny being told by sources of information for which I usually have contempt, such as the Nation magazine and Kevin Rothrock.  Most importantly, Navalny is quite simply a failure. There is no evidence at all that he can actually achieve anything meaningful as the self-appointed leader of the opposition, and we believe he should step aside.

The critical question on Navalny, which far too few Russia analysts are asking, is a simple one: Is he the best Russia can do? If so, we agree that criticism of him should be muted if not withheld.  If not, it should be louder and stronger.  We’re about as cynical as a person can get on Russia , but we don’t think Navalny is the best Russia can do, and we think it insults the people of Russia more than they deserve to suggest otherwise. As we’ve said before, we think that Navalny himself is a big part of the reason many think he’s the best Russia can do, because he has done a lot to choke off the oxygen supply from his potential rivals.

An important and rare survey of criticism of Navalny in the Russian blogosphere by expert Russian translator Catherine Fitzpatrick was recently published on The Interpreter, and because of the dearth of such reporting elsewhere really amounts to a path-breaking effort to let the Western world in on the full Navalny picture, not just the propaganda.  In my view, Fitzpatrick’s article is the single most important piece of reporting on Navalny in English that has ever been published, and The Interpreter’s work to open a window for English speakers into the Russian blogosphere is simply indispensable.

In our view, though, Fitzpatrick could have gone even a little further.  So we’d like to undertake our own little survey to fill in the blanks.  We don’t think we do Navalny or the Russian opposition any favors by soft-pedaling Navalny’s vices or his failure to achieve his goals.  By doing so, we think we only encourage more of the same.  By telling the full truth about Navalny, we emphatically refute any claim that Fitzpatrick went too far, something that some of Navalny’s cult-like followers may claim.

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The Other Side of Navalny

We are disappointed and surprised by the ludicrously one-sided nature of the Western mainstream news coverage of Alexei Navalny. He has many virtues, and he’s vastly preferable to Vladimir Putin, but he’s far from perfect and certainly very far from being the best Russia can hope for. Dishonest reporting about him does nobody any favors, least of all Navalny, who is prevented from being forced to confront his own weaknesses and reform.

For a more complete picture of Navalny, two recent pieces from Global Voices are required reading.  They highlight Navalny’s immaturity, his racism and the surprising lack of difference between Navalny and incumbent Moscow Mayor Sobyanin.  They also comment on the Chirikova blog post, cited below.

Here are three poorly-reported items from the Russian blogosphere (Russian-language links) as examples:

(1) О принятии заявления по поводу ситуации в г. Пугачеве

Navalny votes in favor of “legitimate protest against indigenous people” and complains about attempts to label this as “extremism.”  In other words, using euphemisms, Navalny votes in favor of racism.

(2) Про “чудесное освобождение” Навального

Opposition figure Vladimir Milov chastises Navalny for suggesting that street protests caused his recent release from prison. No thinking person can believe this was the case; the Kremlin clearly wanted Navalny to be free to run for mayor so it could defeat him.

(3) Ошибка кандидата

Opposition figure Yevgenia Chirikova, Russia’s leading environmentalist, chastises the Navalny campaign for having no environmental plank in its platform. (There is also no plank for women’s rights or minority race rights — but she doesn’t mention that). She complains that when she raised this issue she was mercilessly attacked by Navalny’s minions as a traitor to his movement.

In Russia, where Navalny is Concerned, Good News is Bad News

We have seen yet another appalling wave of misreporting from the West’s Russia journalists in reacting to the temporary release of Alexei Navalny from custody. Grossly misrepresenting the reason for the release, many of these idiots have claimed it was caused by the minor street protests that followed Navalny’s jailing (Navalny himself has tried to claim this in a shameless propaganda move seeking to bolster his flagging fortunes). Nothing could be further from the truth.  Indeed, the notion that street protests somehow “forced” the Kremlin to release Navalny is the single most ridiculous assertion we have heard about Russia in the past decade.

In fact, the Kremlin wants Alexei Navalny to run for Mayor of Moscow. It knows he has absolutely no chance of winning, and that when he loses it will score not one but two impressive victories. First, it will legitimize the office of Moscow Mayor, having proved the office was filled after a truly competitive election. It can hold this result up for propaganda purposes over and over whenever challenged about its democratic bona fides.  Second, it will delegitimize Navalny.  If he runs in Moscow, his bastion, and fails, he will be exposed as a charlatan and nobody will be able to claim that Moscow jailed him in a political move to silence a dangerous rival.

On Facebook, Navalny invited over 50,000 Russians to appear at Manezh Square to protest his conviction. Only about 3,000 showed up.  Navalny has now been sentenced to five long years in prison, a conviction that will permanently disqualify him from ever again seeking public office and that will have him behind bars during the next presidential election.

And that’s only the beginning. As with Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the Kremlin has plenty more where that came from, so that it it can keep Navalny in jail as long as it likes. Radio Free Europe explains:

Russian prosecutors have opened three other legal cases against Navalny that could be brought to trial. One involves allegations that an advertising company headed by Navalny defrauded the Union of Rightist Forces political party of some $3 million in 2007. The second charges that a postal services company owned by Navalny and his brother deceived the Yves Rocher cosmetics firm. And the third claims he conspired to illegally privatize the Urzhum distillery in Kirov Oblast.

If this is good news for Navalny and his forces, they’d better get down on their knees and pray for some bad news.

Back in Moscow, Navalny made another one of this infamous promises, this time that he’d win the mayorship.  Those who heard this promise can’t help but remember his other promises:  To force a new Duma vote, to force Vladimir Putin into a runoff and to put a million people on the streets of Moscow in protests.  Needless to say, none of these things happened. Meanwhile, Navalny has been endorsing disturbing racist/nationalist political platforms, collaborating with skinhead nutjobs like Edward Limonov and Sergei Udaltsov, and continuing to perpetuate his own personality cult.  He shows no signs of being able to motivate the mass public, no signs of being willing to share power, and no signs of being anything remotely like a real hope for a better future for Russia.

Many Western scribes are totally ignoring all these harshly negative facts about Navalny. Their “reports” read like Soviet propaganda tracts. It’s just disgusting that even after being humiliated by their grossly, hideously biased statements about Navalny’s protest movement in the past being proved totally wrong, Western journalists can’t be even a little more careful the second time around.  Their gushing, fawning, misleading pseudo-reporting on Navalny only helps Russia speed its way towards oblivion. They are no friends of Russia.  To the contrary, they are Russia’s worst enemies.

Five Years for Navalny (for starters)

Navalnysmirking

The only thing that was more sickening than the obviously prefabricated verdict against Alexei Navalny which was announced today in Kirov was the pathetic spectacle of Navalny smirking like an ape at a photographer as he stood in the courtroom before the judge in an open, short-sleeved casual shirt.  Near him in the foreground stood his partner, also convicted, smirking in a t-shirt and looking for all the world like a mafia goon.

You only have to watch the movie Gandhi to see how inappropriate Navalny’s behavior was, and how unlike the leader of a great protest movement who wants to show himself more civilized than the cruel regime his fighting. Though firm and resolute, Gandhi always behaved with the utmost respect towards the judges who convicted him on political charges.  And Gandhi brought the British Raj to its knees.  Navalny fraternizes with skinheads, acts like one of them in court, and has no chance whatsoever to be the savior of Russia.

Navalny was sentenced to five years in a penal colony, one less than the prosecution had asked for and half the time he could have drawn.  But as the treatment of Mikhail Khodorkovsky clearly shows, the Kremlin may well intend to keep Navalny behind bars forever (with a five year conviction, Navalny will conveniently be behind bars until the next presidential “election” passes).  There are three more sets of charges against Navalny already in the pipeline, the same pattern followed with Khodorkovsky.  Amazingly, Garry Kasparov’s website reported back in April that the five-year sentence and courtroom arrest that Navalny received had been ordered by Moscow after summoning the judge there before the trial began.  As if that weren’t enough, Navalny was not even permitted to cross-examine the one witness against him, nor to call any witnesses in his own defense.  So it couldn’t be more clear that this was a rigged judicial event in the Soviet style.

On Facebook, more than 50,000 Russians were invited to participate in a protest against the trial on Manezh Square in Moscow, but as of now less than 20% of them have accepted.  A new poll from Levada clearly shows that the spirit of opposition has waned dramatically under Navalny, not grown, and that is clear from the shrinking size of the protest crowds Navalny has been able to assemble.

But Navalny’s weakness was made most abundantly clear when the Kremlin did not hesitate in allowing him to place his name on the ballot for Mayor of Moscow.  The Kremlin knew full well that Navalny couldn’t come close to winning a free and fair election against the popular incumbent, that the election wouldn’t be fair and he’d be easily routed, and that he’d be in prison long before the votes were counted.  So instead of giving Navalny something to chew on, it handed him a candidate ID card and said:  “Knock yourself out, buddy. Good luck with that!”

Nonetheless, we see this conviction as a good result for opposition forces. It’s not going to cause a radical increase in opposition activity, nor will it make Navalny a hero or a better man, much less a Mandela.  But it does provide some moral high ground for the opposition, a useful martyr, and most of all it forces them to sink or swim. If they are to continue, they must have a new leader who will pick up Navalny’s standard and carry on. Almost inevitably, that person will be an improvement from the totally failed policies of Navalny himself.

As shown below, immediately after Navalny’s sentence was announced the MICEX Russian stock index began to plunge, fast approaching the 1,400-point psychological barrier.

MICEX

Once again, the Kremlin has shown it has no hesitation in using political charges in a commercial context. How can any Russian investor trust that he/she won’t be the next Navalny? They cannot, and that is why Russia continues to be plagued by one of the worst capital flight problems in the world.