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When ‘against all’ isn't necessarily against Putin Prominent Russians react to Ksenia Sobchak's presidential campaign

Meduza
08:59, 19 october 2017

Kristina Kormilitsyna / Kommersant

Television host, socialite, and LʼOfficiel Russia chief editor Ksenia Sobchak announced on October 18 that she intends to run for president next year, confirming rumors that have circulated for the past six weeks. We still know very little about her campaign, though there are reports that political consultant Vitaly Shklyarov (who helped several opposition candidates win municipal races in Moscow earlier this year) will be one of Sobchak’s consultants. Based on her website, Sobchak is presenting her candidacy as a stand-in for the “against all” ballot option. To get a sense of how Sobchak’s candidacy is going over with the Moscow elite, Meduza reviews some of the early reactions from politicians and prominent Russians.

Ivan Melnikov

Vice-Speaker of the State Duma, Communist Party member

There’s no scenario where Ksenia Sobchak rivals the Communist Party. We’re sticking with serious politics, built on a strong platform that speaks to the people. The only reaction to this news [Sobchak’s candidacy] is to smile, though it’s unclear whether the smile should be ironic or sad. You can guess why this campaign is happening, and what will happen in the end is just as predictable.

(quote from the news agency Interfax)

Mikhail Kasyanov

Former Russian prime minister and current leader of the political party “Parnas”

I’ve always supported free elections, so if Ksenia feels up to this, then I’ve got nothing against it… It’s still early to consider Sobchak’s candidacy a way of taking votes from other opposition candidates, since we still don’t know who else will be running. So far, only [Yabloko leader Grigory] Yavlinsky can run. Navalny can’t [because of his felony record], Gudkov doesn’t want to, and I’ve said that I won’t run. That’s everybody. There’s no one else.

(quote from the news agency Interfax)

Dmitry Gudkov

Former State Duma deputy and organizer of the “United Democrats” coalition

This topic has been circulating in the media for a long time now. I think everything going forward will depend on what kind of platform she adopts for her campaign. If she chooses a tough anti-Putin campaign — a real one — then she’ll have a chance at mobilizing a new generation of voters, building up some infrastructure, and having an impact on the election. Everything depends on Ksenia, and you can only wish her luck. I was originally a supporter of registering Navalny’s candidacy, but I don’t think their electorates overlap very much. Generally speaking, the more candidates there are, the greater the chances that this election will influence public opinion.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky

Former oil tycoon

I watched Sobchak’s speech. And you know what? There’s something in this! She really can help people understand the essence of “voting without choice.”

(quote from Twitter)

Irina Khakamada

2004 presidential candidate, public figure

I’ve understood for a while now that Ksenia would run. The news for me was that she’s presenting herself as “against all.” I don’t know the whole story here, but it’s an interesting idea… The Kremlin long ago made a farce of all our elections. Ksenia is playing up this same farce, only it’s “against all.” Alexey Navalny’s nationwide rating isn’t so high: from two to three percent — five, max. Ksenia’s numbers are the same, from two to three, as high as five.

(quote from the TV station Dozhd)

Sergey Udaltsov

Coordinator of the “Left Front” movement

[Mikhail] Prokhorov in 2012 may have thrown everybody for a loop, but Sobchak’s candidacy is just too obvious. You can see the Kremlin’s fingerprints all over this from a mile away. :)

(quote from Twitter)

Maxim Katz

Yabloko member and director of the Moscow urbanist group “City Projects”

Until today I was pretty neutral about Ksenia Sobchak’s presidential candidacy. There are two theories about how this happened, and I consider them both plausible, since I wasn’t there to witness it.

The first is that the Presidential Administration is looking for ways to attract attention to the elections, and it asked Ksenia to act as a sparring partner, like it did with Prokhorov [in 2012].

The second theory is that Ksenia decided on her own to run for office. Having been interested in politics for a long time, she’s decided to act on this now.

In support of the first theory, people say that Ksenia has spent the past few months actively polemicizing with Navalny, while remaining silent about Putin.

In support of the second theory, people point out that Ksenia has been interested in politics for a long time. She was even elected to a seat on the opposition’s Coordinating Council, coming in fourth and all without orders from Putin. Ksenia can also leverage her 5 million subscribers as a media resource.

To figure out which of these theories is correct, we can observe what Ksenia does, going forward. Whom will she criticize? Navalny and Yavlinsky or Putin? Will she mount a quality anti-Putin campaign? Will she just call him names, or will she offer real explanations about why Putin can’t be re-elected after 18 years in power?

Or will it be a campaign against the other candidates, against the system as a whole, and against the injustice of the world, but just not against Putin?

(quote from LiveJournal)

Anton Krasovsky

Journalist, TV host, and head of Mikhail Prokhorov’s presidential campaign from 2011-2012

Ksenia Anatolyevna Sobchak is an independent young woman who apparently will tell us herself how her campaign is going to be managed. I can say for certain that I support her initiative and I’ll do everything in my power to help Ksenia Anatolyevna Sobchak’s success in the election.

If I understand it correctly, this campaign is open to everyone, and it’s not just some fixed project. Again, if I correctly understand Ksenia Anatolyevna (and I’m sure that I do, since I’ve known her for many years), this is about her saying, “Anybody who wants, come join me, and we’ll settle on something. Work full-time, if you want, or just support me, if that’s what you want.”

Yevgeny Chichvarkin

Entrepreneur

Fuck the head of the liberal Judenrat and all her henchmen, fuck Putin, fuck all the old “Communists” and “liberal-democratic” old fucking clowns.

At the moment, the only independent [candidate] is Navalny, and he’s in jail. Everyone else has reached agreements with Putin, and they’re working for him. Choosing from one of them isn’t a choice at all. You fucking sellouts are leading the country to fucking disaster, putting that fucker in office for a fifth term. Go fuck yourselves! Go fuck yourselves!

(quote from Instagram)

Quotes collected by Andrey Sokolov, translation by Kevin Rothrock