Ksenia Sobchak: from the candidate “against everyone” to the candidate everyone’s against

A recent study by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center  showed that only 1% of the Russian population consider women capable of having a lead role in the family. What about being the leader of the country?

Before her presidential campaign, people knew Ksenia Sobchak mostly as the host of several second-rate reality shows. Very few knew her as a journalist, and even fewer as a politician. That along with her image in popular media made it almost impossible for the majority to accept her as a candidate.

At last, Ksenia managed to get more than 100,000 signatures to start a campaign with the motto “Against everyone,” and to speak up about themes that are all but banned in the official mediasphere. For example, desacralization of Stalin , sexism , and the return of Crimea .

The media tried to strike back in a sexist way.

Some popular Russian media sources met her campaign with cynical irony. For example, TV-channel MIR24 published on their website an article  called “The new show of Ksenia Sobchak: presidential ambitions of the blonde in chocolate,” referring to the reality show about Sobchak’s everyday life. The main idea of the MIR24 article was that the whole campaign is just a new way for Sobchak to advertise herself. The first sentence makes that very clear: “Ksenia Sobchak – a famous TV-host, blogger, actress, journalist: everything but a politician – is running a campaign for the presidential post”.

Another example of an attack against the candidate is more offensive, in my opinion, and was published on the website of Independent TV-channel. It is called “No program, no platform: why does Ksenia Sobchak try to get into power?” The article – once more – tries to convince readers that all Ksenia’s actions have nothing to do with politics. The author claims – without any facts! – that Sobchak is selling her image as that of a politician.

As the campaign has continued, people and journalists started to realise that Ksenia Sobchak does indeed have a political program. There were two significant events which influenced Ksenia’s ratings. The first one took place on the 14th of February. She complained  to the Supreme Court about Vladimir Putin’s third presidential campaign, because  the Russian Constitution allows for only two. Obviously, the complaint was refused. A week later, following the news about the complaint, the Russian department of RadioLiberty  published an article  investigating the decrease in any mention of Ksenia Sobchak on the federal TV channels.

At the end of February, Sobchak took part in debates on the federal TV channel “Russia 24”. Another candidate, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, from the liberal-democratic party, called  her stupid, dirty, and a prostitute in a very offensive way. This happened on-camera. In response, she poured water on him. He never apologized, but several days later, Ksenia was attacked by a young man who yelled “This is for Zhirinovsky!” The Independent TV called  it negative PR , suggesting that it was Sobchak’s own effort to make herself look like a victim, and the only way for her to gain votes.

The most recent incident happened on the 14th of March during the debates. Ksenia was interrupted many times by Zhirinovsky and others. When she asked the host to stop it, Vladimir Solovyov – the main propagandist of the federal TV – referred to the rules of the debates that state that the host cannot enter into the discussion. After some arguing, Sobchak started crying and left the studio.

Those tears will bring new headlines about Ksenia playing the victim, being a weak woman, and selling her image.

It seems that people never forget one’s past, especially if one used to host some old scandalous shows. Many people also seem to have a hard time accepting a woman as a potentially successful high-level politician.

by Larina Alexandrova  (Moscow)

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