About Russian leaders, leadership and legitimacy
Leadership should be understood as the demand of political leaders who play an active political role, pretending to represent the interests of the masses – without any effective participation of these masses in political decision-making. Such a model, of course, has its roots in the history of the Russian state, where society as a whole has almost always been excluded from politics that was the exclusive domain of the elites.
A good, democratic king
At the same time, many opposition Russians have a naive faith in a good, “right” leader: “A good leader will come and build democracy for us.” It is postulated, often unconsciously, that the same leader will do all the work himself, and grateful citizens will simply benefit from the fruits of his labor without using their own strength. As a rule, the leader is regarded by such citizens with respect, he is endowed with the presumption of rightness, and those who disagree are immediately registered as “Kremlin agents.” There is an uncritical attitude towards politicians, based more on personal sympathy and high expectations than on a conscious choice.
One cannot fail to mention a recent historical example, namely the coming to power of Boris Yeltsin, who made his career in the late 1980s by criticizing the privileges of the nomenklatura – for which he himself was persecuted. At the turn of 1980-1990. The democratic citizens of the USSR saw Yeltsin as a true democratic leader who would give freedom and democracy to everyone. Of course, for people born and raised in the Soviet Union, such a naive, childish attitude was unforgivable: they did not know what democracy was and what an open, competitive political process was in principle.
Such naivety is unlikely to serve as an excuse to live in 2023. Today it is well known how easily democracy can be distorted and castrated, and how a brutal dictatorship can be built under the banner of democracy. Therefore, the child’s belief in a “good leader” is a problem.
Self-proclaimed by the opposition
The main disadvantage is that the concept of leadership does not in principle provide for responsible citizens who would play an important role in politics. In leadership, participation is essentially limited to going to the polls, ticking off your candidate, and waiting for the candidate to do them a favor.
But does such a dependent approach contribute to true democracy?
Of course, political leaders should not be approached with romantic enthusiasm, but purely consumerist and sober. Politicians must be accountable to those whose interests they purport to represent and defend. They must be controlled, they must be heavily interrogated, and they must be parted with no regrets if they start gagging behind their constituents’ backs.
The antidote to leadership can only be the widest possible participation of politically active Russian citizens in making political decisions. Only citizens are the source of legitimacy for any politician. Therefore, every political leader, or aspiring to be, needs a direct, unambiguous mandate from the masses that will give him the necessary legitimacy to represent the interests of the people in Russia and beyond.
We must be aware that all the current figures of the Russian opposition are in fact self-proclaimed. This is the reality. They have their supporters, but there is no legitimacy in the eyes of those who are not among them.
Deriving legitimacy from participation in any election many years ago is a controversial idea. Even more strange and undemocratic are the proposals that legitimacy can come from one particular citizen, even if it is very meritorious and authoritative.
Thus, the question arises again about the need to create a system of expressing the will of Russian citizens, which could serve both the election of candidates for certain coordination bodies of the Russian opposition and voting for draft decisions of these bodies.
Such a system will, among other things, allow you to declare yourself new number, which will be an opportunity to renew and refresh the existing political landscape. Undoubtedly, fresh blood would be very useful for developing new approaches and solving the age-old question of “what to do?”.
Regular participation in political life, voting on draft decisions, expressing one’s opinion not in the form of fruitless discussions on social networks, but on a real political platform would be a good school of democracy for everyone who would like to see Russia as a free and democratic country in the future.
The e-voting system itself should be designed and operated in such a way that it does not raise doubts as to its transparency and inspires confidence of those who will use it. Alternatively, one could consider entrusting the development and administration of such a system to an IT company from a neutral country, i.e. commissioning it for some kind of outsourcing. This would ensure the impartiality and purely technical nature of the operation of such a system.
Without such a mandate from the people, no association of self-proclaimed leaders will have the necessary legitimacy, and all their statements and decisions can always be challenged. The concrete results that a growing number of Russians need can only be achieved through formation political organizationwhich unites the widest possible political spectrum – an organization created and supported by the citizens themselves, thus expressing their true interests as they imagine them.