February 20, 2003
EXPANSION OF THE ELECTIONS
An ideal way of uniting regions has been found
The Kremlin is aiming to combine elections at different levels
Author: Olga Tropkina
[from WPS Monitoring Agency, www.wps.ru/e_index.html]
COMBINATION OF ELECTIONS, FORMATION OF A ONE-PARTY SYSTEM LOYAL TO THE REGIME, AND EXPANSION OF REGIONS ARE LINKS IN THE SAME CHAIN. IF THE FIRST TWO OBJECTIVES ARE ACHIEVED, THE THIRD WILL BE ACHIEVED AS WELL.
A nationwide campaign is underway - unannounced, though that doesn't really matter - to unite elections at all levels. The St. Petersburg legislature met yesterday and put on the agenda holding the gubernatorial election in December 2003 instead of May 2004 as scheduled. The initiative was instantly supported by Viktor Cherkesov, presidential envoy for the North-West federal district, whose PR department released a special statement. It isn't hard to guess that perceptive St. Petersburg lawmakers were on target, understanding what the federal government wanted. In other words, this supports the rumors about the Kremlin's intention to "expand the election".
Neither is there anything coincidental about the choice of St. Petersburg as the launch pad. The city is ruled by Vladimir Yakovlev, a politician the Kremlin wants to remove (the list of his potential replacements is rumored to include Vladimir Litvinenko of the Mining Institute, Andrei Likhachev of Lenenergo, Duma Speaker Gennadi Seleznev, and others). But this is just the tip of the iceberg.
It is common knowledge, after all, that saving money is not the major goal of the whole campaign. Synchronizing elections is an ideal means of forming a politically homogeneous and essentially one-party regime, free of conflicts (horizontal conflicts between legislative and executive government bodies, or vertical conflicts between different levels of government). Some regional campaigns have already demonstrated the effectiveness of the method. When a gubernatorial election takes place simultaneously with the Duma elections, the pro- government party always wins the election in the given region. The same goes for the candidate for governor supported by the pro- government party. This is the effect of "package voting" (like "Putin for President, Kirienko for the Duma") when the regional leader and the pro-government party double their votes through mutual support. When elections take place at different times, however, this mobilization of administrative and electoral resources is impossible, and "the masses" become less controllable.
The "correct election" is not the ultimate goal of the combination of campaigns in the existing political context. There is a more important task as well. Expansion of regions is underway, and the process is not to be restricted to the Komi-Perm Autonomous District alone. Rumors in the corridors of power are growing more and more persistent: that Moscow and the Moscow region, and St. Petersburg and the Leningrad region, should be merged... Getting the local authorities' consent is the major task. As far as regional elites are concerned, unification of regions would mean reduction of power, loss of positions and status, inability to defend their economic interests. That is why they will fight the idea to the last. From this point of view, combination of the elections, formation of a one-party system loyal to the regime, and expansion of regions are links in the same chain. If the first two objectives are achieved, the third will be achieved as well.