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Vremya Novostei, April 9, 2003

Filing Cabinet for Policy Platforms
Most Russian voters don't care about the policies of political parties

By Xenia Veretennikova

Representatives of the major Russian parties and political scientists accompanying them, after gathering yesterday at a meeting of the Open Forum club to assess party platforms, came to an unsettling conclusion. For the majority of voters these platforms do not contain anything they find interesting. Voters are more attracted to a "brand", charismatic leader, or some kind of election campaign slogan. The exceptions, possibly, are only the Communist Party and Yabloko. According to Mark Urnov, head of the Expertise Foundation, election policy platforms are of interest to 40% of the potential electorate of these parties. Meanwhile the platforms of the Union of Right-Wing Forces and United Russia are of interest to less than 20% of voters. And this is not surprising: these parties to a large degree rely on the charisma of the leaders (in the minds of the electorate, the leader of United Russia is President Putin).

In the opinion of Sergei Mitrokhin, deputy leader of Yabloko, it is precisely the party platform that represents the grounds making it clear to the voter what he or she is dealing with - it is the ideological organization representing the interests of one group or other, or is the usual PR product. "To understand whether the party has a history or whether it is just a PR project, it is sufficient to have a look when it adopts its policies," noted Mitrokhin. "If the policy platform is adopted with great pomp on the eve of the elections, than we are dealing with a PR project." Mitrokhin clarified that he had the Union of Right-Wing Forces in mind, whose platform "A Strategy for Russia", written by Boris Nemtsov, was presented only eight months before the impending Duma elections. Before that, the URF somehow got by without any strategy.

Incidentally, this attitude of the Union of Right-Wing Forces towards a party platform is not surprising. In the view of Irina Khakamada, co-leader of the URF, a party platform just doesn't play a key role in voting, but should act in society "via certain signals". "Recently, the competition between the parties has intensified over party platforms. It is not surprising that that the main accusation against United Russia is that it is not going to form its own party platform. If, however, the party forms a platform during the elections in accordance with the demands of voters, then this will be a PR-based document." Nevertheless Khakamada later said: "Platforms should become subjects for discussion in society."

Andrei Isaev, representing the roundly cursed United Russia, did not speak about party platforms. In accordance with United Russia's traditions, he swore that the abusive term "party of power" was unjust. However, as soon as Igor Bunin, head of the Political Techniques Center, discovered a new type of electorate v a sort of protest vote group, that at the same time did not want to vote for the communists - Isaev immediately announced the aspirations of his party for vote: "The electorate that does not oppose the President or the regime, but opposes its leader, for example the head of the Housing Services Commission - they will vote for us."

The political scientists also decided that it was necessary to clarify issues with the term "policy platform". "All the platforms which parties have presented were impossible to fulfill. The President has a filing cabinet for these platforms, but not the administrative apparatus," said Gleb Pavlovsky, president of the Effective Policy Foundation. He also promised that such an apparatus would be created after the next elections.

The Director of the Information-Analytical Centre of the Communist Party, Ilya Ponomarev, shared his opinion: policy platform ideas roam from one platform to another, with those present.

A policy platform will have real significance when a party that wins the elections actually comes to power. For the time being, however, most platforms are no more than a decorative component of party life. To all intents and appearances, most participants in the discussion agreed with this statement..


See also:

State Duma elections 2003


Vremya Novostei, April 9, 2003

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