By staging significant protest actions in almost 100 Russian cities Sunday, Alexei Navalny has laid down a serious challenge to Vladimir Putin. The anti-corruption blogger-turned-politician wants to run for president in elections that are barely a year off, and has been conducting himself as if his campaign were already under way. The Kremlin has the means to prevent him, by invoking a criminal conviction, recently upheld by a regional court, that could bar him from running for office. It has been standard procedure under Mr. Putin’s brand of “managed democracy” to cull the ballot, using various pretexts, to ensure that independent challengers are kept out and results are tailored to match the authorities’ expectations. That system has mostly worked in the Putin era, though it experienced a tough shock when tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest alleged fraud in the 2011 Duma (parliament) elections. To continue working, the system requires public acceptance of election results, or at least apathy.
Until now, the overwhelming public perception has been that there is no alternative to Putin, no worthy challenger. Thus his return to the Kremlin next year – should he wish it – has seemed inevitable.
But the size and scope of the nationwide wave of protests may have just upended that view, analysts say, by demonstrating that Mr. Navalny is a serious contender, and that his signature issue of corruption in high places can bring tens of thousands of mostly youthful Russians onto the streets, despite the very real threat of arrest.
Full Article: Why Russian protests are making the Kremlin rethink 2018 presidential elections (+video) – CSMonitor.com.