Navalny as Saakashvili

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December 15, 2017 by AK

At the annual presidential Q&A session yesterday, a pseudo-opposition quasi-politician asked the Russian president why genuine opposition politicians, including the de-facto opposition leader, had been effectively barred from running in the upcoming 2018 election:

Ksenia Sobchak, a socialite-turned-journalist who wants to run for president… asked Putin why Navalny was not allowed to run.

“Are the authorities really scared of honest competition?” she said.

In response, Putin compared Navalny to the former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili, who is accused of trying to foment unrest in Ukraine, though he refused to refer to Navalny by name.

According to the official transcript, he spoke of “the personnages you have just mentioned.” It’s an old, familiar manner of speech, not limited to senior Russian officials.

“Those who you’ve named are the same as Saakashvili, only the Russian version. And you want these Saakashvilis to destabilise the situation in the country? Do you want attempted coups? We’ve lived through all that. Do you really want to go back to all that? I am sure that the overwhelming majority of Russian citizens do not want this,” he said.

Putin is not arguing here that Navalny is technically ineligible to run because he has been re-convicted in the Kirovles case. (Navalny’s initial conviction was annulled by the Russian top court following a ECHR ruling. The ECHR is currently reviewing his Kirovles re-conviction.) Putin is clearly saying that Navalny is a threat to the exisiting political order.

He’s apparently comparing Navalny to Saakashvili the controversial Ukrainian politician trying to dislodge Petro Poroshenko’s regime. But, inevitably, he must also be alluding to Saakashvili the two-term president of Georgia, the man credited with doing the impossible: cutting down corruption in Georgia to levels close to Eastern and Southern Europe rather than Russia and Ukraine.

The year before Saakashvili was elected president, 2003, Georgia was ranked 124th on the Corruption Perception Index by Transparency International, while Russia was 86th. The year after Saakashvili left office, 2014, Georgia was ranked 52nd and Russia, 136th. Georgia was placed just below Hungary and just above the Czech Republic and Slovakia. In the 2016 CPI, Georgia’s rating rose to 44, just below Spain and above Latvia.

Considering that the primary focus of Navalny’s movement is fighting corruption, it’s a most flattering comparison – a paean, virtually.


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