February 19, 2003
The YUKOS oil company intends to sponsor the Communist Party
Author: Sergei Mikhailov
[from WPS Monitoring Agency, www.wps.ru/e_index.html]
IN THE STRATEGY DEVELOPED BY KREMLIN ANALYSTS, YUKOS IS MEANT TO BE A MAJOR SPONSOR OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY'S FORTHCOMING CAMPAIGN. IT IS SAID THAT YUKOS HAS ALLOCATED AROUND $70 MILLION FOR THIS PURPOSE. IN RETURN, THE OIL COMPANY WILL HAVE A GREAT DEAL OF INFLUENCE ON THE LEFT, EVEN SELECTING LEADERS.
According to observers, United Russia and the Communist Party (CPRF) currently have roughly equal chances of coming out on top in the Duma elections scheduled for December 2003. The major battle for seats in the lower house is likely to take place between these two parties. Clearly, campaign success will largely depend on how much funding each party can manage to attract. The arsenals of United Russia include administrative, financial, organizational, and information resources. During the 1999 elections, the Communists proudly declared that they were minimizing campaign spending, emphasizing that leftist ideas still have widespread support among the citizenry, even without extra injections of money. However, it's unlikely that the forthcoming campaign can be won on the enthusiasm of hungry citizens. According to our sources, this circumstance may be used by certain oligarch groups who, pursuing their own strategic goals, have already initiated talks on making some generous campaign donations to the CPRF.
According to our sources in the presidential administration, one of those structures is the YUKOS oil company; in the strategy developed by Kremlin analysts, YUKOS is meant to play the role of one of the major sponsors of the CPRF's forthcoming campaign - as well as being a force capable of detaching the CPRF from Boris Berezovsky. Incidentally, in his official statements Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov continues to deny the possibility of receiving any money from Berezovsky. However, sources from the team of Zavtra newspaper editor Alexander Prokhanov say that "under certain circumstances" (if there is a split among the CPRF leadership, according to analysts) this funding could go ahead even without the consent of Zyuganov.
According to some reports, the executive structures of the left could be directly controlled by YUKOS in the near future; it is said that YUKOS has allocated around $70 million for the election campaign. According to the terms of the agreement, the position of chairman of the People's Patriotic Union of Russia (PPUR) is meant to be taken by Alexei Kondaurov - a former major-general in the KGB, who currently heads the analytical directorate at YUKOS.
YUKOS specialists also intend to intervene in setting up the Communist campaign team; its nucleus will include the people responsible for Khodyrev's win in the Nizhny Novgorod gubernatorial election in 2001.
Sources in Zyuganov's team report that the Communist leader accepted this plan, after some consideration and consultations. The major arguments in favor of such a scheme: firstly, it would enable Zyuganov to secure his position in the party and free himself of parallel centers of influence in the CPRF; secondly, it would prepare the CPRF for a gradual, "non-revolutionary" transformation into a new- style social democrat organization. After a number of opinion polls and expert analyses, it has been concluded that it does make sense for the Communists to make the transition to a different ideological platform, while retaining their leadership on the left. The polls and research showed that if the CPRF discontinues its more radical approaches - of which everyone is very weary - it could gain an extra 10-12% of the vote. However, in implementing this plan it will be necessary to resolve the problem of competition, since the Russia's Renaissance party, led by Gennady Seleznev, is also aiming for the same niche.
The question of Russia's Renaissance remains open. Rumor has it that the presidential administration would like to make Seleznev the leader of the whole center-left bloc in the lead-up to the elections; some other political formations might join it, as well as those parties and movements which are already in the PPUR. However, some within the presidential administration are proposing Sergei Glaziev as leader of the center-left coalition. This matter is still under discussion; but everyone is inclined to think that YUKOS will have the final say in determining who will become the leader of the left for the Duma elections of 2003.
If YUKOS chief executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky succeeds in carrying out his plans, the next step of YUKOS could be to prepare "its own candidate" for the presidential election of 2004. Given control of half of the future Duma, it would not be difficult to nominate such a presidential candidate and guarantee him a place in the second round of voting, alongside Putin. This applies regardless of whether YUKOS supports a left-wing candidate (for example, Sergei Glaziev) or a right-wing candidate (for example, Grigory Yavlinsky). Actually, with such vast amounts of money involved, Khodorkovsky can even permit himself to support the incumbent president.
(Translated by P. Pikhnovsky)