The Nemtsov Vote: Public Opinion and Pro-Western Liberalism’s Decline in Russia
- Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization
- Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies, The George Washington University
- Volume 24, Number 1, Winter 2016
- pp. 69-87
- Additional Information
The political trajectory of Boris Nemtsov reflects that of unabashed pro-Western liberalism more generally in Russia, going from a strong political force in the 1990s to nearly complete political marginalization in 2015, the year of his death. An analysis of voting patterns in 2003, the only year Nemtsov personally led a political force on the ballot for a nationwide office, reveals that while many people supported core ideas advocated by Nemtsov, such as market reform, these did not systematically win him votes. Instead, these issues were successfully co-opted by Putin, backed by the Kremlin machine and state-controlled media. Nemtsov did successfully appeal to several constituencies that the Kremlin did not fully co-opt, including people who benefited from the 1990s reforms and advocates of “Western” democracy, but these were only small minorities of the population. While he had some success in Russia’s biggest cities and among youth, this analysis finds no evidence he was disproportionately supported by the business community or pro-oligarch voters.