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Konservator No. 1, January 17, 2003

There Are Two Political Forces in Russia: the Communists and Putin

An interview with Viktor Militaryov, President of the Development Institute Foundation.

Question: Will the layout of political forces in Russia change before the Duma election?

Militaryov: At present, there are two political forces in Russia: the Communist Party and Putin. Moreover, people seem not to perceive any fundamental difference between the two. Most people view them as representing their interests, aimed at improving their lives as soon as possible. People hope for a better standard of living and are becoming more indifferent to oligarchs, and believe in a stronger state. The difference between Putin's voters and the Communist Party's voters is not a matter of substance, but rather of style, and is probably sub-ethnic to some extent. Putin's voters dislike the ritualized Stalinism in Communist rhetoric, the archaic culture of the Communists, and their shame-faced anti-Semitism. Communist Party voters dislike the ritualized pro-market views and pro-Westernism - stated, but not always carried out - in Putin's political rhetoric. Overall, these two groups account for 70-80% of voters. A dozen different political parties are trying to win the remaining voters over to their side; however, only three of them have any chance: the Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS), which openly stands for the interests of the rich; the Yabloko party, which exploits the snobbery of the intelligentsia; and the venal puppets of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR), who express the interests of eccentric people with bad taste.

Question: Will any new political forces arise?

Militaryov: Only cloning is possible, in my view. There may well be some more clones of the pro-Putin party, the Communist Party, the Union of Right-Wing Forces, Yabloko, and the LDPR. However, as a rule, they are impotent.

Question: Will United Russia preserve its status as a monopolistic pro-government party, or will there be several pro-government parties?

Militaryov: The present situation of the "collective Putin" is that many people, perhaps including the president himself, are realizing that it is necessary to change the style of both the pro-government party and the president's personal image in the near future. However, most decision-makers agree at present that they do not have enough resources to do so. Hence, it is necessary to mobilize the current resources of United Russia during the Duma elections to achieve some very good results. As a last resort, it is possible to make some slight changes to the personnel and candidate lists of United Russia. The changes to the style of the pro-government party and Putin's personal image should be postponed until the presidential election or later. The strategy of creating a "collective Putin" is most likely, although I disagree with it.

Question: How would you assess the prospects of the Union of Right-Wing Forces and Yabloko?

Militaryov: It is a thankless task to predict the political future of the Union of Right-Wing Forces, Yabloko, or the LDPR. All of them are likely to get 5% of the vote - plus or minus 3%. They will never unite, as their electorates are incompatible. The electorate of the Union of Right-Wing Forces - with the exception of a few mad librarians who have supported this party forever - are the nouveau riche and their employees, who are satisfied with the Yeltsin decade of thieving and decay. The electorate of Yabloko is made up of people who are close to Putin's and Zyuganov's supporters, but who are turned off by the style and rhetoric of those two leaders; Yabloko voters are intelligentsia snobs. A new right-wing party could only be a clone of the Union of Right-Wing Forces, which means only one of the aforementioned parties would get into the Duma. Apparently, the present electorate of the Union of Right-Wing Forces is very narrow and inflexible.

Question: What role will the oligarchs play at the next elections?

Militaryov: Oligarchs are Putin's natural enemies. However, some of them still find it possible to feign obedience - they will support United Russia. Those who are ready to oppose the president on any terms will support the Communist Party, the Union of Right-Wing Forces, or Yabloko. Oligarchs will definitely not support the LDPR. If anyone does support the LDPR, it will be some groups in the presidential administration; and let me phrase this delicately to avoid any potential lawsuits - some "authoritative entrepreneurs".

Question: What are the prospects of the left-wing non-communist parties?

Militaryov: At present, they do not depend on the "collective Putin", but rather on the personal decisions of the president. Any competent analyst can see that Putin's electorate is the electorate of the left-wing non-communist parties. There are no other voters for the left-wing non-communist parties; although some may appear tomorrow. According to polls, a considerable part of the population would like to have a left-wing president - but so far, his name is Putin. I support faster measures here, for I believe that the reserve of confidence in "Putin's majority" is not limitless, and it is time to rush forward.



See also:

State Duma elections 2003

Presidential elections 2004

Konservator No. 1, January 17, 2003

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