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#5 - JRL 7218
Nezavisimaya Gazeta
No. 63
March 31, 2003
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]

Now that election campaigning is under way, Russian politicians refer to the Iraq issue ever more often. Will the war affect the outcome of our parliamentary and presidential elections the way the 1999 elections were influenced by the Chechen war? We put this question to three well-known Russian political analysts.

Andrei PIONTKOVSKY, Center for Strategic Studies:

It looks like our political technologists are out for arranging pre-election unity of the nation, this time not on the anti-Chechen but already on an anti-American basis. However this kind of a mobilizing project is faced with a problem. If Putin as a responsible leader tries at some moment to stop the growing anti-American hysteria, this would be regarded as a display of weakness and new concessions to the U.S. But if the president is compelled to follow in the wake of anti-Americanism, the difference between his new position and what he has been doing after September 11 will be too obvious. And his political opponents will not hesitate to use that.

As for the parliamentary elections, the anti-American hysteria offers free propaganda in favor of the Communist Party, whose position looks most consistent and principled.

Igor BUNIN, Center of Political Technologies:

The Iraq conflict cannot affect our election returns. Yes, foreign policy aspects and criticism of the U.S. hegemony will figure prominently in the programs of political parties, but this will have practically no effect on the voting results. Foreign policy in Russian mentality is not a factor determining the outcome of elections. It is nothing more than a background, an element of a common political choice.

Anti-American sentiments have grown stronger in the Russian society today. But this does not mean a negative attitude to the West as a whole, where we have allies - France and Germany.

Alexander TSIPKO, Independent political scientist:

The war in Iraq will have a considerable effect on the moral and political situation in Russia, and therefore it will influence the election results. There is an impression that the U.S.-Iraq conflict has evoked in the population a need for a great-power revenge. Some begin to fear that, unless our military capability is restored, the fate of Iraq may befall Russia. This should be reckoned with.

In my view, owing the Iraq war Russians have realized that our state is of a Eurasian character. Otherwise it is pretty hard to explain why all of a sudden a large part of the population wishes victory to the Iraqi regime and sympathizes with Muslims. Russia cannot exist as an integral nation without a close unity of Slavs and Muslims. This tendency has been most clearly pronounced in the past days.

The war in Iraq has strengthened Putin's prestige as an advocate of a strong state caring for the dignity of his country. His position satisfies the overwhelming majority of Russia's population.

In these conditions the election positions of the Communist Party are bolstered up. When nostalgia for the Soviet Union as a country that could defend itself recurs in people of the middle and old age on a subconscious level, Communist leader Zyuganov gets very good chances.

Modest KOLEROV, Regnum Agency:

The Iraq conflict will in no way influence the results of our parliamentary and presidential elections. A decisive influence on an outcome of a political struggle in Russian conditions has what is shown on TV. By the time when voters go to the polls the war in Iraq will be over and TV will not pay so much attention to Iraq.

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