Russia's small but vociferous opposition is rapidly gaining momentum but the stumbling block is still there: few Russians really care about who runs their country.
Or rather, they do. But their concern rarely goes beyond a dinner table conversation about endemic corruption and the near-constant political gerrymandering.
Much of it is probably due to Russians' time-honored political apathy: centuries of hardship and misrule have seen to that. Another reason may be the lack of free media ('They've starved us of the oxygen of freedom!' 'Down with what's-his-name!'). But this, too, falls short of an explanation - you don't need a newspaper to tell you it's the end of the world, do you?
It's the same old no-confidence factor, that's what it is. The majority of Russians simply don't believe in the opposition's mantra of democracy. 'What will you offer instead?' 'What will we gain from you?' These are the things the liberal coalition of ex-prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov, ex-deputy premier Boris Nemtsov, republican Vladimir Ryzhkov and democrat Vladimir Milov must make crystal clear. To themselves, I guess, as much as to everybody else.
Don't get me wrong: they issue manifestos, they speak out on the airways, they take to the streets, but it's just not catching on. The problem is Russians are a people of the heart ("Vote with your heart" was the slogan of Boris Yeltsin's 1996 successful re-election campaign), not of the head. It's the strong men, the spies (invisible yet invincible), the revolutionaries/visionaries that we fall for. Opinion polls show Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, the ex-spy macho man of Russian politics, is considered the real power in the country.
Instead, it's the head that the liberal leaders have been throwing most of their rhetoric at. Brochures and booklets about the Kremlin's misdeeds in minutiae most people wouldn't even bother to look at may not be the best way to endear yourself to a nation which seems to want economic stability more than political transparency. 'So what is this you're banging on about all the time? The what? The truth? You're asking us if we want to know the truth? Er, no please, keep it for yourself.'
Now, I do not criticize; I merely observe. I'm no different by the way. I, too, like action. So long as there is heart in it. But along with a large number of like-minded people, I also like the minutiae. So I guess finding the balance between the two is probably the biggest challenge facing the liberal foursome who are going to stand in next year's parliamentary elections and propose one candidate in the 2012 presidential polls.
That said, I'm not at all sure if they are going to stand half a chance in becoming the next president. We'll have to wait and see. But for now, Russia's liberal and opposition movements are triumphant, and quite appropriately so: they have been granted permission to hold a rally on Moscow's Triumfalnaya Square on October 31, in honor of Article 31 of the Russian Constitution, which guarantees freedom of assembly. Previous requests to hold the rallies have been invariably turned down.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
MOSCOW, October 25 (RIA Novosti, Alexei Korolyov)