Both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal reported last week that 71 of 1,560 seats on Moscow’s district councils went to independent candidates, a small fraction of whom were members of the opposition protest movement. If you are counting, that’s 4.5% of the total. There are 125 of the councils spread across Moscow with an average of a dozen members each, and the opposition didn’t even come close to placing one member on each of them. The net result is that there is one “independent” vote on about half the total councils in Moscow, one vote out of twelve.
Both papers chose to focus on Vera Kichanova, who is just 20 years old, studies journalism, and is one of the opposition members. She tweets and blogs on ZheZhe. She professes to be a libertarian and a supporter of bringing Ukraine’s “Orange Revolution” to Russia. Her ZheZhe blog refers to herself as: “Radical, liberal, fanatical, criminal.” In English, yet.
It is all much ado about nothing. Not only is the size of the independent contingent microscopic and irrelevant, as the WSJ explained the councils have no power:
The 1,560 deputies elected in Moscow on Sunday serve one level below the city legislature, in the capital’s neighborhoods, and have little formal mandate beyond organizing sport and social activity. They can challenge, but not block, rulings by the district’s appointed executive bosses, who control land use, construction tenders and spending, and are often criticized as mini-autocrats, answerable to only to the mayor.
The NYT added: “Most major decisions in Moscow are made by unelected bureaucrats at agencies beholden to the city’s unelected mayor. The district councils, which are made up of elected volunteers, barely have enough authority to decide on the location of a park bench or the planting of a tree.”
Given this, one has to wonder why this story is worth writing about.
The answer is clear: Because it’s all that’s left. The street protests led by Aleksei Navalny have fizzled just as we said they would, and have achieved nothing. But the MSM is desperate to keep its pulse-pounding story of “revolution” in Russia alive by any means possible.
Does Vera Kichanova really have the energy and dedication necessary to spend decades toiling in thankless obscurity in order to teach Russians some civil lessons in the vague hope that one day some of them may do her one better? And if she does, can Russia preserve itself long enough for that to make any difference? If it could, will someone like her, who used to work for Voice of America, be allowed to take and hold any kind of real power, any more than was Mikhail Khodorkovsky?