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Vedomosti, December 8, 2003

Putin's Victory

By Vitaly Ivanov, Svetlana Ivanova and Alexander Bekker

The elections for the fourth Duma have been won by the pro-presidential United Russia party and the new leftists from the Motherland bloc (Rodina). The main casualties in these elections are likely to be the Communists, and the liberals of the Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS) and YABLOKO.

United Russia leaders felt like it was their birthday yesterday. Valery Bogomolov, secretary of the party's general council, declared that United Russia hoped to have 190 Duma seats (Unity and Fatherland factions had 134 seats in the third Duma), with Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov, leader of United Russia's supreme council, as speaker of the lower house. Vyacheslav Nikonov,

President of the Politics Foundation, predicts that the pro- presidential majority may exceed 60% in the new Duma.

"This is not a victory for United Russia - this is a victory for Putin [who openly supported United Russia during the election campaign]," says political consultant Alexander Tsipko. "People in the provinces viewed United Russia as a local branch [...] of government, responsible for heating, water and gas," says Lilia Shevtsova from the Moscow Carnegie Center.

The most controversial, yet predictable, sensation of the elections was the success of Vladimir Zhirinovsky's party and the leftist and conservative Motherland bloc. In the opinion of political consultant Oleg Matveychev, their success can be attributed to the prevailing "powerful state-patriotic conservative right wing" trend in Russia nowadays. Vyacheslav Nikonov of the Politics Foundation tends to attribute the LDPR's success to its successful campaigning against the Communists.

The success of Zhirinovsky's party and Motherland is favourable for the Kremlin, political consultants say.

"Glazyev [...] is a fanatic, but I think even fanatics phone the presidential administration before challenging anything," Gleb Pavlovsky joked yesterday.

In Nikonov's opinion, presidential initiatives will be supported by both Motherland and the LDPR at the new Duma.

However, Sergei Glazyev yesterday tried to dispel his image as a politician controlled by the Kremlin. He said that in the previous Duma the CPRF faction had been the only one to keep its campaign promises.

Yesterday, YABLOKO leader Grigory Yavlinsky looked very confident. He didn't miss any opportunity to say that YABLOKO "is ready to take responsibility for democratic forces in the new Duma."

The mood in the SPS camp was much gloomier. SPS's top three - Anatoly Chubais, Irina Khakamada and Boris Nemtsov - pointed out with some disappointment that their predictions of "national- socialists" in the new Duma were coming true. "We have to eliminate that brown mold," said Chubais - but he didn't rule out that "the elimination could take a long time."

Yevgeny Yasin, Deputy Rector of the Higher School of Economics, who supports the SPS, says that Motherland's success struck a blow mostly against the CPRF and the SPS. "Putin has lost his opponents on the right, and significant intellectual support. The president will now have to take Glazyev's position into consideration, which won't be at all useful from the economic point of view," says Yasin.


See also:

State Duma elections 2003

Vedomosti, December 8, 2003

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