On August 25, CCHP's senior researcher Andrei Semenov took part in the "Contentious Corona: Political Opposition and Dissent" seminar organized by the Center for the Study of Political Organising (Södertörn University, Sweden). The seminar tackled the issues of the scope for the opposition and dissent in times of pandemic, opportunities, and constraints for collective actions across national contexts. The panel included Swen Hutter (Professor in Political Sociology, Freie Universität Berlin, and Vice Director of the Center for Civil Society Research, Berlin Social Science Center, Germany), Nicholas Aylott (Associate Professor in Political Science, Södertörn University, Sweden), and Zhanna Kravchenko (Associate Professor in Sociology, Södertörn University, Sweden).
Swen Hutter argued that in Germany, the pandemic presented a dilemma for civil society: the need to respond to the challenges collectively faced the strong interference by the state, including the levied restrictions on the public life. Prior to the pandemic, immigration and climate change protests elevated the German society. Anti-Corona mobilization comprised activists across party lines, especially from Alternative for Germany and Free Democratic Party. According to the rolling survey, the economically vulnerable and the adepts of conspiracy theories are most likely to support the mobilization.
Andrei Semenov presented the results from the national representative survey conducted by Levada-Center in late June 2020, which showed that Russians attribute the critical responsibilities for handling the economic crisis to the president. It presented an opportunity for the opposition to target the government's actions regarding the consequences of the pandemic. He also showed that the public demand for the non-systemic opposition was on the rise for the last three years. The regime responds to the growing pressure from the public with increasing coercion, as showed by OVD-info data on single pickets and detentions. The presentation can be found here: https://www.academia.
Nicholas Aylott analyzed the dynamics of contention in the United Kingdom, noting that British politics had been exhausted by the Brexit drama before the pandemic. The public health crisis presented an excellent opportunity for Labour to show maturity through constructive opposition. Despite the disruption, UK politics remained open and competitive.
Overall, the comparative context allowed to highlight similarities and differences across the political regimes and state structures. Germany, Russia, and the UK differ in many dimensions, and the variation in policy and public responses helps to elucidate the links between the institutions and mobilization.