The Communist Party of Russia has held protests in two cities in the Russian Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, calling for ‘fair and clean elections’.
The protests took place on 17 August in the republic’s capital, Nalchik, and it’s second-largest city, Prokhladnoye.
Around 150 people attended in Nalchik, while according to the leader of the local branch of the Communist party, Boris Pashtov, about the same number of participants gathered in Prokhladnoye.
The rallies were agreed with the city administrations and were held as part of a Russia-wide campaign ‘For Fair and Clean Elections’.
At the protest in Moscow, Gennady Zyuganov, the longtime Communist Party leader, called on people to vote against the candidates of the ruling United Russia Party, the Washington Post reported. He also attacked protesters who have been coming out into the streets of the capital for weeks in defiance of the authorities, they said.
‘There is a choice today, the choice in favour of the national-patriotic forces. Everything is ready, we only need a shared will, joint action and an organised electoral campaign’, they quoted him as saying.
‘If the people pick up bayonets, we will go with the people’
The action in Nalchik took place on the square in front of the Rodina cinema, in one of the suburbs of the city. Speakers decried the ‘numerous violations of the law’ during election campaigns for all levels of government.
They also spoke of a rising housing and utility costs, low salaries, unemployment, and an outflow of young people to other regions and countries.
Boris Pashtov said at the rally that ‘today the government rudely violates the rights of the people to choose their representatives’.
He quoted Russian Communist Party leader Gennadiy Zyuganov’s words that they would ‘until the very last […] fight for power by a mandate’, but added that ‘if people pick up bayonets, we will go with the people’.
The head of the party’s branch in Kabardino-Balkaria’s Elbrus District, Liza Khasaitova, urged people to participate in the republic’s parliamentary elections on 8 September.
‘When you sit in social networks you can’t solve problems’, she said.
Murtaz Tuganov, a member of the local Communist Party’s youth wing said in a speech that the authorities ‘ignore the problems of the young’, and that not a single programme works to help young families in the republic.
‘The money allocated for these programmes is being stolen. Young families often cannot earn money even for tolerable food’.
‘Whoever could leave — has left, the rest are degraded, criminalised — they start to engage in drug trafficking, theft, and join the militants’, Tuganov said.
A resolution adopted by the protesters said that ‘these are the first elections in which the people should and will evaluate the real steps of this government against their people’.
‘The Communists will not allow falsifications of the will of the people’, it said.
‘People have stopped believing that they can change something’
After the rally, Boris Pashtov told OC Media that he believed the campaign ‘For Fair Elections’ was not so well attended because ‘people, including communists, who number more than 3,000 people in the republic, stop believing that it is possible to change the situation through legal protests’.
‘Fewer and fewer people trust the authorities’, he said.
Isa Zhurtov, a journalist and member of the All-Russia People’s Front, a coalition of civil society groups, business association, and unions, founded by President Vladimir Putin, told OC Media that Russia’s Communist Party was a ‘pocket opposition’ party.
‘The people, most of them, understood that the whole elite is one “gang” and that the Communist Party fully complies with the instructions of the authorities’.
‘This so-called “pocket opposition” will never go beyond the framework established by the real power’, he said.
According to him, Pashtov ‘just yesterday was an active and staunch supporter of United Russia’, but then ‘he was recommended by the ruling party to the post of leader of the local communists behind the scenes’.
Marianna Malbakhova, a journalist from local newspaper Gazeta Yuga, told OC Media that she believed the reason for the low turnout for this and other protests in Kabardino-Balkaria was that ‘there is no protest culture’ there.
‘People have stopped believing that they can change something, and in addition, they fear reprisals from the security forces. Only pro-governmental organisers can ensure a high turnout, driving out employees of state organisations’, Malbakhova said.
According to her, a lot now depends on the position of young people, ‘who are not burdened with loans, and, therefore, are not afraid to lose their jobs for participating in protests’.
‘As for the Communists specifically, the majority of the republic’s population understands that the Communist Party is not the opposition at all’, she said.
According to Aslan Beshto, a local human rights activist and head the Kabardian People’s Congress low turnout, not only for protests but also in elections, was not only a problem for the Communist Party.
‘If we recall the elections, we can say that the turnout was extremely low’, Beshto told OC Media.
He said that people disbelieved not so much in the idea of communism itself, which still remains attractive to them, as in the people representing the top of the Communist Party in the country and in their ‘openly venal and compromising position’.
Khadzhimurat Khakuashev, the chair of Respublika — Obsheye Delo (the Republic is our common cause), a local public organisation, told OC Media that he believed that ‘the majority of the population has no confidence in the Communist Party’.
‘ “The party of pensioners”, as the modern Communists are secretly called, require radical reforms, or they will be completely forgotten’, Khakuashev said.
The Communist Party of Kabardino-Balkaria plans another protest for 24 August.