| As expected, Sergei Glazyev's Rodina bloc was the big
story of the 2003 State Duma elections. Some analysts, citing "reliable
sources," had predicted before the elections that Rodina would easily
clear the 5 percent barrier. Others, citing the same sources, maintained
that the new bloc would just squeak by. Still others, citing sources in
the presidential administration, declared that Rodina would fall short
of 5 percent. Strange as it may seem, they were all correct in their assumptions.
The plan to bring down the Communist Party was conceived long before
the election. Everyone understood the necessity of such a plan. The prospect
of an uncertain competition between United Russia and the Communists for
first place in the polls didn't suit Vladislav Surkov, deputy presidential
chief of staff or the Kremlin as a whole. The KPRF had to be weakened
by creating a rival party capable of siphoning off some of the Communists'
core supporters. Three separate groups within the administration set to
work on the project.
The driving force behind the plan was the team of Surkov and then-chief
of staff Alexander Voloshin. They believed that the new party should take
5.1 percent of the vote -- enough to secure representation in the Duma
and rattle the Communists without acquiring unnecessary clout. After all,
the Kremlin had been honing its relationship with the KPRF for years.
The intention was to make the Communists a little more agreeable, not
to unleash a powerful and unpredictable new faction in the Duma.
When the project was already under way a second group, which the press
dubbed the "Orthodox chekists," got involved. The Orthodox chekists
rightly noted that the Communist electorate was more right-wing and patriotic
than left-wing, and sought to build up the new party in order to take
as many votes as possible from the right wing of the KPRF, while playing
the nationalism card at the same time. They also intended for the new
party to carry on the campaign against the oligarchs, who had been actively
increasing their representation in parliament. Under this scenario, the
new popular patriotic bloc -- as opposed to the left-wing patriotic bloc
envisioned by Surkov and Voloshin -- would claim 8 to 9 percent of the
A third, less active group was also involved in the creation of the
anti-Communist coalition -- the liberal wing of the presidential administration.
This group contended that the new bloc should be limited to 4.9 percent
of the vote, short of the minimum required for a spot in parliament. Their
plan was to divide the KPRF, entice one of its strongest leaders to lead
the new bloc, divert a significant number of votes away from the Communists
and then scuttle the new bloc after the election. Under this scenario,
the Duma's liberal parties, the Union of Right Forces and Yabloko, would
both make it into the new Duma. The Surkov-Voloshin plan also foresaw
at least one of these parties clearing the 5 percent barrier. Only the
Orthodox chekists had no use at all for liberals in the fourth Duma.
Surkov decided that the leader of the new bloc would be Glazyev, a member
of the KRPF faction in the Duma and a promising young politician whose
strong showing in the recent Krasnoyarsk gubernatorial race had attracted
much attention. Postmodernist political strategist Marat Gelman was to
run the campaign, with the group of Kremlin liberals also included. At
the outset, then, the new bloc was conceived as left-wing and patriotic,
and a fitting name was chosen: Tovarishch, or Comrade.
The strategy was simple. Glazyev would insist that he be given one of
the top three spots on the KPRF party list in order to increase support
for the party at the polls. He would have a few conditions, such as forming
his own faction in the Duma. Gennady Zyuganov, of course, would refuse.
Then Glazyev would propose a two-pronged campaign, with Zyuganov on the
left flank and Glazyev on the patriotic right. Zyuganov would like this
suggestion even less because it would create the impression that while
Glazyev was doing everything in his power to strengthen the KPRF's position
in the Duma, Zyuganov was undermining him.
As this political process got under way, the groundwork for the coming
campaign would be laid. This involved the creation of a nationalist organization
called Tovarishch, with an extensive network of regional offices that
would be converted into campaign offices later on. The bloc's ideology
would be hammered out by a group of left-leaning political experts at
the Tovarishch discussion club. And finally, the Tovarishch cafe would
entice younger voters with concerts by properly vetted artists, with the
aim of turning them into left-leaning, nationalist voters. Thus by the
time Zyuganov finally ruled out the possibility of cooperating with Glazyev,
the infrastructure of the new bloc would already be in place.
Then along came Dmitry Rogozin. The arrival of Rogozin, who was associated
more with United Russia than with the KPRF, came as a complete surprise
to everyone. Nevertheless he took over the campaign, undoing in one stroke
all that had been accomplished up to that point. The bloc was rechristened
Rodina, or Homeland, to reflect its new popular, patriotic orientation.
In these new circumstances, the original authors of the plan decided
to disband the stillborn organization. The Kremlin liberals in particular
insisted on this. They had split the KPRF and taken Glazyev, and that
was enough. By now Voloshin was on the way out, however: He clearly had
no time for Rodina, and everything remained as it was. The bloc's ideological
volte-face left no doubt that it was nothing but the Kremlin's puppet.
Realizing this, a number of respected organizations that prize their ideological
independence opted to distance themselves from the new bloc even at the
price of exclusion from the Duma. These organizations included Alexander
Dugin's Eurasia and Vyacheslav Igrunov's SLON. A little later, banker
Alexander Lebedev also jumped ship.
You can berate Rodina all you like for being the brainchild of the presidential
administration, but first you ought to take a second look at the makeup
of the fourth Duma. When you do, you will realize that the entire lower
house is the brainchild of the presidential administration. Anticipating
a complete loss of popular support, the KPRF decided to become a manageable,
predictable party that the Kremlin could rely on. Then you have United
Russia, the "party of power," and Vladimir Zhirinovsky's one-man
band, the Liberal Democratic Party. That's it. All of the remotely legitimate
parties in the Duma have either been shown the door or whittled down to
nothing. The only question in this election was which Kremlin clan would
come out on top.
Parliament appeared at the dawn of the era of reform by the will of
one president. The current state of the parliament is the result of the
will of another. Russia always was and remains an authoritarian state.
And authoritarian regimes have no need for political parties. The best
choice for Russia is no choice at all.
Valery Stroyev is a political scientist and former member of the Tovarishch
campaign staff. This comment first appeared in Vedomosti.
the original at