“Mr. Putin and Mr. Navalny cannot do without each other, and their confrontation somehow is evolving into a state of codependency, whose obvious result is the duplication of the Putin leadership model in the anti-Putin opposition”
Mr. Navalny persists as a leader. He’s become the sole face of the opposition. He was an activist in the liberal Yabloko party, but he was kicked out in 2007 for damaging the party’s brand with his involvement in xenophobic, nationalist causes. After the 2012 protests, the liberal forces were wavering and losing momentum. Mr. Nemtsov was murdered, Mr. Kasparov left Russia and Mr. Kasyanov’s Yabloko party fared poorly in the parliamentary elections in 2016, and he faded into the background. Mr. Navalny remained, returning to his anti-corruption campaigns. The recent protests are exclusively fuelled by Mr. Navalny’s supporters. He has become not simply the most popular, but the only active opposition leader. He has no need for parties or coalitions. His hundreds of thousands of online followers are enough. For the first time, Mr. Putin has one chief opponent. His ideological statements are vague and contradictory. He adopts an authoritarian leadership style. Mr. Navalny has declared his intention to participate in the presidential election next spring, and although the law does not allow him to run because he has a criminal conviction, as the Central Election Commission recently affirmed, the possibility cannot be excluded. Mr. Putin can be criticized for destroying democratic institutions, concentrating the whole Government around himself and paralyzing civil society. The alternative to Mr. Putin ought to be democracy. But Aleksei Navalny entails the risk of creating a new authoritarian model even after Vladimir Putin is gone.