Not a uniquely Russian problem
One example of a toxic political partnership is the 2020 Thuringian election scandal in Germany, which cost Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, then thought to be in line to succeed Angela Merkel, her career. After the elections to the Thuringian Landtag at end-2019, the parties couldn’t form a ruling coalition for almost three months. On February 5, 2020, the Landtag nevertheless settled on a minister-president: in the third round, Thomas Kemmerich, a liberal from the Free Democratic Party (FDP), was elected. Bodo Ramelow, the Left Party candidate, who had until then led Thuringia, lost to Kemmerich by just one vote. The FDP deputies were joined in a tactical coalition with members of the CDU and the full block of the AfD to elect Kemmerich. As a populist party, the AfD represents a wide range of populist politicians, but its members in Thuringia are, according to many experts, not far from neo-Nazi views. Despite the fact that the AfD had made its way into both regional parliaments and the Bundestag, until then it had been considered an unacceptable ally. In Thuringia, it was the votes of the AfD that decided the outcome of the election. Moreover, many believed that this happened because of a conspiracy: a letter immediately surfaced in the press written by former local AfD leader Björn Höcke to colleagues from the CDU and the FDP with a proposal for such a vote deal.
This was a nationwide scandal. Kemmerich announced that he was ready to dissolve the Landtag and resign. CDU leader Kramp-Karrenbauer belatedly called for a re-election, but the Thuringian CDU leadership simply didn’t heed her demand – new elections promised the CDU in Thuringia an even worse performance. In the end, on February 10 Kramp-Karrenbauer announced her resignation as leader of the CDU and said she would not run in the 2021 elections. On March 4, Ramelow was nevertheless reelected minister-president and managed to form a minority government.
A coalition is like cooking with spices: they can improve a dish’s taste and make it a culinary masterpiece, or they can turn it into something completely inedible – a fly in the ointment.
To a certain extent, the independence of all parties, organizations and politicians is limited by the understanding that, to achieve a desired goal, it is almost always necessary to enter into agreements and partnerships. However, when forming a coalition, one must first answer questions like why it is needed, who it attracts, who it scares away, what problems it solves and what problems it creates. Coalition projects in a normal political setting are tested and studied by all available methods, including opinion polls, focus groups, expert interviews and election analysis, while “skeletons in the closet,” image compatibility/incompatibility, etc. are studied in detail.
In Russia, no one (almost) ever does this. Decisions about alliances and coalitions in Russia are most often made on the fly – the result of a brainstorm at headquarters – and sometimes just a voluntaristic decision of a single person. The Russian voter (and she is probably not alone) loves it when someone unites with someone and doesn’t like scandals and splits. This is precisely why reports about alliances are often just PR fakes (for example, when those who are already in an alliance “unite” anew, or when it’s a coalition with a movement that in fact doesn’t exist).