The drive for power might be the predominant motive in the struggle for leadership of the protests at the moment, though the major point today is whether the leaders can gather enough societal support and to what extent they can go beyond current “rally politics”.
Many supporters of rightwing liberal views do not consider Prokhorov their leader. There are a few reasons for this. First, he has not a clearly defined political commodity; second, his attempts to reform the Right Cause party failed; and third, his dubious morals and scandal-tarred image.
Participants in the rallies on Bolotnaya Square and other places in Moscow and other cities signed the united opposition program. Not a single item of this program has been implemented. Of course, the authorities announced that the elections of governors will be introduced as well as political plurality, but so far we have seen nothing else but imitation of a genuine political process.
Alexei Navalny emerged as a new and alternative voice of the internet generation, and of the angry urban citizens of Russia. By focusing on corruption, he brought to the fore the pent-up frustration of the Russian middle class, with shoddy police work, corrupt officials, problematic interethnic relations.
The contemporary protest movement is far less tied to the political personas of particular leaders than past movements. There is no common platform or organization for this opposition movement, a fact which reduces the danger that it will be captured by demagogues but which also makes it difficult for it to enter into dialogue with the authorities.
The protest rallies have had no influence on liberalism. They have only strongly reaffirmed that the current system can no longer be preserved unchanged. This is what they showed. As for whether the message has reached Putin, this is quite another matter.
Putin has to decide whether he has to get rid of some people, how many, who and so on. Or he can ignore this public demand for new faces and bring his own team, his St. Petersburg team, or the people who have been around him for the past 20 years, and keep them, ignoring the public mood for changes in government.
Things are looking less rosy on the country's domestic political front. An increasing number of Russians has begun expressing discontent, if not hatred, for the ruling elite. This is disturbingly reminiscent of the unstable political environment of the Soviet Union from 1989 to 1991.
The old methods are no longer effective. If Putin wants to take back the initiative, he needs to be more open and audacious. His headquarters realized this almost too late. But now that he has taken up the challenge, he will not lose the streets to the opposition.
Part of the opposition believes that dialogue is not possible without Putin’s unconditional surrender. These people are not ready for any talks or dialogue. There are others who are also dissatisfied with the status quo and want to express their opinion. For them dialogue in the form of articles, speeches and Q&A sessions began long ago.
The authorities are adapting to the new reality. Putin is a man of his time, just like Mikhail Gorbachev was a man of his time. Gorbachev is often unfairly criticized for not being able to foresee all the consequences of his actions. Putin is facing the same problem. He needs time to adapt to the new situation.
Putin is seen by some of the ultranationalists as such an inadequate part of the Russian national organism. He thus has to be replaced by a “healthy” and “worthy” representative of the Russian nation.
Since the 1990s many Russians have harbored an aversion toward toward American participation in managing Russian affairs either directly or through U.S. political and economic advisers. Regardless of his alleged authoring of the “Reset” policy, McFaul is famous in both the United States and Russia as a supporter of the American policy on democracy promotion worldwide.
The Putin regime has little to fear from the latest public protests which, despite drawing large crowds, are apolitical. True politics will only become possible in Russia when both the opposition and the regime focus on the tedious work of practical politics.