Mikhail Khodorkovsky is launching his next political project. This is a year-long quest, at the end of which the participants are to become fully-fledged politicians so as to be able to offer some competition to the government in the 2017 elections at all levels.
The idea of the quest came from the recent American political drama TV series Designated Survivor in which all the key political figures are assassinated in a terrorist attack and the designated survivor, the inexperienced Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, is sworn in as president.
The Open Elections project is called Instead of Putin. Timur Valeyev, executive director of the Open Russia movement, told TV Rain that the very next day 25 regional activists and politicians would embark on the year-long quest. The result, as planned by the game’s organisers, is that the participants should become serious politicians at federal level.
The participants include United Russia party member Elena Logvinenko, formerly local administration chief executive in Korolyov (Moscow Region); Maria Baronova, head of Open Russia’s human rights wing; and Open Russia member in the Tambov region Natalya Zhilkina.
During the course of the year the participants will be given various assignments to complete. The first two will ask them to form a cabinet of ministers and come up with proposals for territorial restructuring in Russia. The main assignments will be handed out once a month, but at the same time the participants will have to study the biographies of public and political figures, while working on developing a political message and on their image.
The completed assignments will be published in the candidates’ profiles on the project’s website. They will be judged by an Open Elections expert jury and the public will be able to cast votes for them on the internet.
The authors of the project consider that by the autumn each participant will have drawn up a “programme for change,” which will then serve as his or her manifesto for the election. Valeyev points out that, even though the politicians emerging from this project may not be victorious in the elections, the aim of the project is to demonstrate to society that there is an alternative to the current politicians.
The project does not directly extend to the presidential election. In September Khodorkovsky announced that he would be supporting the candidacy of Aleksey Navalny in the presidential race, if the courts allow him to stand.
The Instead of Putin project was originally conceived as a competition to find an alternative presidential candidate. But the organisers gradually realised that they needed to build up regional candidates as well. Many of the “questors” took part in the September 2016 State Duma and regional assembly elections, but none of them was elected.
This article was first published in TV Rain