Russia's opposition is divided, ineffectual, and has been rendered largely irrelevant.
And yet the Kremlin and its proxies continue to attack it ruthlessly.
Just to name a couple of examples:
Last month, a sex tape featuring Mikhail Kasyanov was shown on national television; and last week, Aleksei Navalny was attacked outside his office and splashed with a blue chemical liquid.
And in between, Navalny was featured in a hit-job documentary accusing him of being an agent of U.S. and British intelligence.
Kasyanov can barely appear in public without having eggs thrown at him.
With the opposition so marginalized already, one has to wonder: Why do they bother?
And the answer, I believe, is that the Kremlin is haunted by the ghosts of December 2011.
In the State Duma elections that month, the opposition stole the narrative -- and did so without even being allowed to participate in the election.
Navalny effectively and memorably rebranded the ruling United Russia party as "the Party of Swindlers and Thieves."
The opposition launched a campaign to persuade people to vote for any party other than United Russia -- even if it was the Communists or Vladimir Zhirinovsky's nationalist LDPR.
And it worked. The Kremlin was forced to falsify the results in such a flagrant manner that it sparked massive street protests.
One of the Kremlin's main legitimation rituals ended up undermining the regime's legitimacy.
And now Duma elections are just four months away, and they're taking place in the worst recession Russia has experienced during Vladimir Putin's rule.
So now the regime is deploying all of its heavy-handed and over-the-top tactics to assure that December 2011 not repeat itself.
Navalny, Kasyanov, and the rest of the opposition need to brace themselves for a very hot summer.