Lev Ponomarev: My view on smart voting

16 September 2021

by Lev Ponomarev , human rights activist, member of the Moscow Helsinki Group

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Эхо Москвы, 16.09.2021]


I need to say a few important words about the upcoming elections. We are faced with a dangerous and unprecedented situation in world history when power in the country is completely controlled by a security service that proclaimed it had succeeded the Cheka, NKVD and KGB.

A real fascism is gradually coming to Russia both in the political and everyday sense of the word. Politicians and ordinary people may not notice this, but human rights activists see it very well. They expose fascism and try to resist it. All human rights defenders are declared foreign agents in Russia according to laws that each of the parliamentary parties voted in favour of. Each vote for these parties in the eyes of our descendants will be a voice of support for fascism.

Smart Voting, the idea and purpose of which I understand perfectly, has two positions.

The first is to vote for any parliamentary party on the lists, except for United Russia. The second – vote for the most powerful competitor of United Russia in the constituency districts.

That said, the obvious beneficiary of this approach is the Communist Party. The increase in the number of communists could really rock the Duma but it could quickly lead to an even uglier type of consolidation of power. Communo-fascism is no better than what we are seeing now. That is why the issue of values ​​is key.

I want to say quite definitively that I consider it necessary in the current conditions to support only the Yabloko party list. It is the only party of non-cannibalistic views that openly opposes war and repression and is in favour of human rights and a Western-style democracy. Even if it were purely fake, it would be necessary to vote for these values ​​and fight for their support in Russia.
This is a party in which there is Lev Schlosberg and, until his last breath, the late Sergei Kovalev. These names could not appear in any of the other parliamentary parties. Yabloko has a number of sincere, decent, and qualified people. There are civil society activists, political prisoners, human rights activists, environmentalists, and scientists. There are democrats of the old school and there are also energetic and talented youth among them too.

What Yavlinsky said is of little importance, and other claims on the Yabloko Party are also irrelevant. You don’t vote for him, but for the values of liberty, democracy, and human rights that only Yabloko fights for. We shouldn’t try to rock the boat but begin to change the country and force it off this disastrous path. Instead we should look towards its people. 

It terrifies us that a vote for Yabloko can turn into a vote for United Russia, because Yabloko cannot overcome the 5% barrier. It is a sneaky idea will realise itself. Of course Yabloko won’t overcome the 5% barrier if millions of people with a democratic point of view vote for the CPRF! It is completely true to say that if the number of people who support the programme and values of Yabloko exceeds 5 million, then Yabloko should have a presence in the parliament. The authorities know this perfectly well, but it scares them. Otherwise Yabloko would not be silenced the way it is, and they wouldn’t have arrested Shlosberg in such a brazen fashion. 

Now I want to discuss the single constituency candidates.

I realise that in a number of cases the right people have been put forward as candidates in the constituencies by parliamentary parties, people who are ready to protect the interests of their constituents. For example, in the 197th district of Moscow the active and well known independent Mikhail Lobanov who supports political prisoners. It’s these people who need support and deserve victory. If they do not win, then our votes can become their political capital for the future. I greatly welcome support through Smart Voting for such people. 

However, I am not certain its right to inflate the political clout of ghouls with your votes when there are normal candidates who reflect our values. While the country is descending into Fascism, an honest position and a word of truth are much more important than an imaginary victory where one brute defeats another.   

Разумеется, избрать условного Рашкина и список КПРФ кажется гораздо более простым делом. Но мы должны ставить себе сложные задачи, учиться делать правильный выбор вместо легкого, и думать на шаг вперед.
Иначе просто не победить.

But I’m not sure that it’s right to pump up ghouls with your votes where there are normal candidates who stand for our values. In the conditions of the country’s descent into fascism, an honest position and a word of truth are much more important than an imaginary victory, in which one scumbag defeats another.

Yes, getting Yabloko into the State Duma seems a very difficult task. The most important thing for the authorities after guaranteeing United Russia’s monopoly is not to allow Yabloko into the Duma. This would drain a colossal number of resources (and already is!). But if everyone sharing the values of Yabloko were to vote for them, then the party can achieve anything. 

Of course, it seems much easier to elect someone like Rashkin and to support the party list of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. But we must set ourselves the difficult tasks, learn to make the right choice instead of the easy one, and think one step ahead. Otherwise, we just can’t win.

Translated by Matthew Quigley and Fergus Wright

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