Alexey Navalny is living the blogger’s dream. A lawyer by training, the 34-year-old Russian media darling is both famous and audacious. Last year he sunk the competition in a virtual election for Moscow city mayor, and the Russian and international press have since published numerous profiles about his online anti-corruption crusade. His live journal blog boasted one million unique visitors when he unveiled his report on Transneft, a government pipeline monopoly that he alleges embezzled $4 billion from government coffers. Navalny is effective, too: Transneft is currently under investigation, ordered by none other than Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
All the success has launched frenzied speculation about Navalny’s political potential, with a few observers suggesting that he could rise to the presidency. Navalny is associated with what’s known as the “internet party” — a catch-all term for educated elites who use the internet regularly and are critical of the regime. The regime, in turn, is aligned with the “television party” — a reference to the bland news coverage and extensive reportage about Putin and President Dmitri Medvedev that Russia’s three state-run channels churn out. In response to the hubbub, Navalny has said that he won’t participate in corrupt elections. But, as others have pointed out, he hasn’t said he doesn’t want to be president, only that he won’t participate in elections as they are currently organized.
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